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New York Islanders

Backs against wall, Islanders still confident heading into Game 3



New York Islanders celebrate goal

The New York Islanders mostly controlled their previous three postseason series, though they are now in unfamiliar territory in the Eastern Conference Finals.

An 8-2 loss in Game 1 followed by a heartbreaking loss in the final 8.8 seconds in the second game has put the Islanders in a two-game hole to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Not once had New York trailed in a series up until this point, and now they’re veering into a spot where there’s not much leeway for mistakes.

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But an improved effort in Game 2’s loss has the Islanders happy with their chances for Friday night’s game. Head coach Barry Trotz liked the lineup’s process and said Friday he won’t make too many tweaks.

“It was a good group effort, I think we played the right way and we just didn’t get the results,” Trotz said. “We’re going to have to make it harder on (Andrei) Vasilevskiy. We’re going to have to capitalize on our chances and see if we don’t have any breakdowns. I thought we played a real solid game other than the last probably 30 seconds of that game.”

That “group effort” saw New York get out to a good start and win more puck battles. Leo Komarov and Andrew Ladd were inserted into the lineup for Game 2, but according to Arthur Staple of The Athletic, Ladd is likely a scratch for Game 3.

Adding in Derrick Brassard could give the Islanders a much-needed boost to the third line’s offense. The 32-year-old has quietly been a solid contributor this postseason with eight total points in 14 games. In 5-on-5 situations, he has a 67.57 high danger chances for percentage (per Natural Stat Trick), far and away the best mark he’s ever had in the postseason.

Even without Brassard in the lineup, the Islanders held a 28-21 shot lead over Tampa Bay in Game 2 and were perfect on the penalty kill. The challenge has been the finish against Vasilevskiy, who has the best save percentage (.932) of any remaining goalie in the playoffs. He’s kept up his play in the Conference Final, allowing just three goals.

And part of what helps the Tampa Bay goaltender is the ability of his defense to control the area near the crease and get in front of grade-A chances.

Connect the Watts: Islanders Lineup, Matchups and Notes for Game 3 vs. Tampa

In Game 2 alone, Tampa Bay blocked 24 shots and killed five Islander power plays. Trotz said part of the scheme Friday will look to establish a presence near the goal.

“Their defense are big, they’ve got length,” Trotz said. “They’ve got strength and they’ve done a really good job of keeping the net-front clear. … We’ve gotta get to the interior, we’ve gotta create more chaos. We’ll try different ways to do that hopefully tonight.”

Friday does give the New York Islanders a unique chance to test Tampa Bay’s depth for a full 60 minutes. Already without Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay will not have Alex Killorn for Game 3 after he received a one-game suspension for boarding Brock Nelson. Brayden Point also might miss the game after he left early in the second period Wednesday with an apparent injury.

Tampa Bay’s potentially mix-and-matched lines don’t automatically give the Islanders the advantage, but Jordan Eberle said New York took steps in Game 2 to get back into the series Friday night.

“Game 2, I liked the way that we played. We had our opportunities to take over the game and ultimately win,” Eberle said. “You’re gonna go through adversity in the playoffs. You’ve heard Barry say, we have too, it’s not a straight line, you gotta go through obstacles.

“We’re in a little bit of adversity and obviously we have to win today and start looking forward to the next one.”

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.

New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice



Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.

Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game



The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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New York Islanders

Barzal Dazzles, Drives Isles in Win Over New Jersey | NYHN+



Mathew Barzal

If there were any concerns about Mathew Barzal’s game because of his late arrival to training camp, the 23-year-old has quickly dispelled them with his dominant play on Thursday night.

It was Barzal’s three points (1g, 2a) along with linemate Jordan Eberle’s two goals that pushed the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.

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