I went over this yesterday, but the New York Islanders have a difficult road back-to-back this weekend against some former playoff foes, starting tonight with the mortal enemy Tampa Bay Lightning. Tomorrow night, they visit the Carolina Hurricanes in a potential first-round preview. Then, they’re off until Thursday night. So they need to leave it all on the ice tonight and tomorrow night.
The Florida Panthers visit the Columbus Blue Jackets, while the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Boston Bruins—sort of polar opposite opponents. The Lightning and Hurricanes are still the Lightning and Hurricanes. But the Lightning have not looked exactly like the Cup contender we’re used to seeing. I wouldn’t bet against them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re more vulnerable than usual.
The ‘Canes, meanwhile, have struggled without Andrei Svechnikov. With both him and Max Pacioretty done for the year, they don’t have many finishers. That said, they play the kind of game that can neutralize the Isles’ forecheck
Strike while you can and do whatever is possible to lock up the first wild card, starting tonight in West Florida. FIGs go here.
- A preview of tonight’s trip to Tampa, where the Isles haven’t won since Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal.
- Here is Eric Hornick’s magic number/wild card race primer. The magic number could be as low as 5 by the end of the night’s action. [NYISkinny]
- Andrew Gross and Ethan Sears both wrote that there was no timetable for Mathew Barzal’s return in this article. [Newsday | NY Post] But that was before Lou Lamoriello spoke to the media this morning, and folks, it’s so on (and this is NOT an April Fools' joke because even the team tweeted it out):
Lou: Barzal will begin skating today or tomorrow— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 1, 2023
#Isles Player Updates from Lou Lamoriello:— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 1, 2023
- Barzal will skate today or tomorrow
- Wahlstrom is out for the year
- Aho is on the trip with the team
- However, we have official confirmation that Oliver Wahlstrom is done for the year. He’ll be ready to resume full activities this summer. [Twitter]
- The return of the suffocating, dominant defensive structure has been the key to the Islanders’ recent success. [THN]
- “Consummate pro” Zach Parise has been thrilled by the Islanders’ playoff push. This guy is always welcome on this team. [NHL]
- Josh Bailey has been a healthy scratch and is a likely buyout candidate this summer, but he deserves credit for how he has handled the adversity and what he means to the franchise. [Newsday]
- The Islanders announced yesterday that they signed a couple of college free-agent defensemen: Aidan Fulp and Travis Mitchell. Both got two-year, two-way deals that kick in next year. Presumably, they’ll go to Bridgeport on ATOs. [Islanders] These deals signal a view toward the future. [NY Post]
- This Day in Isles History: Mike Bossy becomes the first rookie in NHL history to hit 50 goals (1978); the Islanders retire Bob Nystrom’s No. 23 (1995).
Last night’s NHL scores include the Sabres getting an OT win over the Rangers in Devon Levi’s NHL debut. Also, the Jets waxed the Red Wings, so the Flames needed to win in Vancouver to keep pace. They made it difficult on themselves, but they pulled it out in overtime.
- The Panthers play the Blue Jackets today, which makes the Penguins playing the Bruins a little bit of a challenge. Although the Bruins have locked up the President’s Trophy already. [ESPN]
- Vancouver Canucks’ winger Andrei Kuzmenko declined to take warmups in Pride-themed jerseys last night, and did not wish to explain his decision. [Sportsnet]
- Derick Brassard left the Ottawa Senators’ win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, has a broken fibula, and is done for the rest of the year (unless, I guess, the Sens go to the Conference Final). [Twitter]