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Getting Late Early? Islanders Slump Putting Sense of Urgency on Season



New York Islanders

ELMONT, N.Y. — There may be no better Yogism for the New York Islanders right now than, “it’s getting late early out here.”

Now 15 games into the season, the Islanders find themselves in a hole that is rightfully starting to concern even the most optimistic observers. Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs marked their sixth consecutive loss and their second over a weekend that the team had hoped would be a joyous one with the opening of UBS Arena.

Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames was a brief improvement for the Islanders, who played one of their more spirited affairs that night, but Sunday saw the Islanders continue to struggle as they fell 16 points back of the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.

A look at the standings may seem premature, but the New York Islanders need to start to put some wins together before they find themselves too far down the hole to dig themselves out.

“I wouldn’t say there is a sense of panic, but there should be a sense of urgency,” Matt Martin said. “We know we’re a good hockey club. We’ve proven that. We just have to continue to chip away. I think our last couple of nights our efforts have been there. With a lot of regulars out of the lineup, we’ve hung around. We just haven’t been able to find that goal to tie a game or get us back in a game. We just have to keep looking forward, keep building and at the end of the day if we play the game that we know how to play we’ll get to where we want to be.”

The Islanders have had their fair share of adversity last week.

It started with losing Ryan Pulock on Tuesday and later learning that he would be out for at least a month with a lower-body injury. Then they were hit with a string of players having to enter COVID Protocol.

As it stands Josh Bailey, Andy Greene, Anders Lee, Adam Pelech, Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnston remain in protocol. Brock Nelson also left Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury.

When it rains it pours as they say.

That has played into the Islanders struggles over the weekend, but even before then New York had looked out of sorts. Even when Pelechh does return the New York Islanders will need to contend without have one of their best defenders on the ice and the offense has struggled to produce the way it had been expected to, with Zach Parise joining the fold and Kyle Palmieri moving up in the lineup.

Having played just 15 games, that’s tied for the fewest games played in the Metropolitan Division with Columbus and head coach Barry Trotz hopes that the Islanders can use that to their advantage. However, that won’t be an easy task with the New York Rangers coming to Long Island on Wednesday and Pittsburgh in town on Friday.

“We have to win some of our games in hand,” Trotz said. “If we don’t then the runway gets shorter and shorter. It gets more difficult and more difficult. Now we’re running into a stretch we’re playing teams you have a direct effect on in our own division. … Those are huge gams and we’re missing a few people. We just have to find a way to get on track.

“We’re focusing on just trying to get a win here with all the things that have happened to us in the last little while.”

The New York Islanders will have a few days between their loss to Toronto and their first meeting at UBS Arena against the New York Rangers on Thanksgiving Eve. That could be enough time for several key pieces to come out of COVID protocol, which would be a boost for the Islanders.

Then it’s on the team to get things under control. They’ll need to do it fast as the calendar closes in on December and their next four are against divisional opponents.

“With that group of guys in the past few years, a lot of adversity,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “We’re obviously all winners. We want to win every night. At this point, we have to take what we’ve done good in those games and keep pushing together. The only way we’re going to get out of it is together.”

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