The New York Islanders matchup with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at UBS Arena. Here are three New York Islanders storylines to watch for:
Will Kyle Palmieri Be Back in the Lineup
Palmieri has made appearances at Islanders practice/morning skates here and there, but Thursday’s morning skate was rather telling about how close the 30-year old was in returning to the lineup.
Once morning skate ended, Palmieri did not stay on with the extras, something he has usually done.
Instead, Kieffer Bellows stayed after with Austin Czarnik, Ross Johnston, Sebastian Aho, and Ryan Pulock, which points to Kyle Palmieri being back in the lineup against the Kings.
In 25 games played this season, Palmieri has just one goal and six assists.
“Early I tried to put my finger on it,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said on why Palmieri struggled before he got hurt. “I thought we needed a little more impact from the position and the minutes that he was playing.”
“There’s another level of this game and I know Palms when he gets an opportunity to get back in here, he will try to make an impact.”
If he is back in there Thursday night, one would think he slots in alongside Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier on the second line.
Can Semyon Varlamov Bounce Back
This past Saturday, New York Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov was not at his best against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He allowed three goals on 23 shots, two that he had the power top stop in the first period. The second of the two goals against came with less than a second on the clock, which was a back-breaker for the Islanders.
Before that game, Varlamov was on a roll, as he was 3-1-0 in his last four starts with a .958 SV% and a 1.49 GAA.
After missing the entirety of training camp, the start of the regular season, and then starting off with seven losses, Varlamov has looked more like the goaltender we saw last season, the one that put up Vezina-caliber numbers.
However, what’s more important than the numbers is the timely saves or the big saves.
Varlamov has a GSAA of -0.18 through 12 games played this season (5 on 5), with a -4.25 GSAA over his last five contests.
With the way the Islanders have struggled to score goals, Semyon Varlamov needs to make a couple of more big-time stops if the Islanders want to collect two points.
His counterpart Ilya Sorokin did not have a strong showing against the Philadelphia Flyers this past Tuesday, so Varlamov gets a critical chance to bounce back.
Can the Islanders Show Up Against a Playoff Team?
The New York Islanders are where they are in the standings for two reasons. They are not in the basement of the NHL because they have found ways to get two points against the weaker teams.
They are not as high as they could be in the standings because they have struggled mightily to hang with teams currently in a playoff spot.
In January so far, the Islanders are 4-2. They have beaten the Philadelphia Flyers three times and the New Jersey Devils once. But they looked lost in a game against the Washington Capitals and made costly mistakes against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The positive to take away from their game against Toronto is that it was not a bad game by the Islanders. But the mistakes they made allowed Toronto to get “freebies,” errors that the struggling teams more than likely are not capitalizing on.
Despite the Kings position in the standings, they are 1-3-1 in their last five games. They lost in San Jose to the Sharks and at home to both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche.
Earlier this week, they had a back-to-back with the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers, winning the first 3-2 and dropping the second 3-2 in a shootout.
The Kings have not played a contest since Monday and will be well-rested.
The good news for the Islanders is that the Kings are not a juggernaut offense like some of the other teams in playoff contention, as they have scored just 2.77 goals per game (Islanders 2.37). They are in the playoff picture because they have allowed the seventh-fewest goals per game, at 2.70 (Islanders 2.60).
The Islanders have averaged 4.25 over their last four games and have allowed just 2.50.