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No Discounting Importance of New York Islanders Final 2 Games of 13-Game Road Trip



New York Islanders

The New York Islanders two day swing through Florida will be far from a day at the beach.

The Islanders have dropped their last two games and sit at the bottom Metropolitan Division. Things aren’t in dire straits, but the lack of consistency in their game has led to concern as they get ready to face the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers in the final two games of their historic 13-game road trip.

Monday’s game holds some extra significance as the Islanders return to Tampa Bay for the first time since Game 7. Tuesday will mark their second trip to Sunrise in the past month, but both games will dictate how everyone looks back on their first 13 games of the 2021-22 season.

At 5-4-2, the Islanders are five points back of playoff position. Yes, it’s still very early in the season and they have yet to play a home game, but the importance of their lengthy road trip hasn’t been understated, and the points that they pick (or let slip away) could have an impact at the end of the year.

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“I think we really approach every game the same,” Josh Bailey said about the focus on their two upcoming games. “We put all of our thought and work into that one game. That’s kind of the recipe we’ve been going with. Just doing it one day at a time. One game focus. We’ve got two really tough teams, so it’s going to be a challenge.”

At times the New York Islanders have played like the team that reached the Stanley Cup semifinals last season and took the eventual Stanley Cup champions to seven games. Other nights, the Islanders have struggled to be consistent and find themselves chasing the game.

And the power play has struggled mightily this season, already giving up two shorthanded goals this season and scoring just four times through 11 games.

Their recent play has forced head coach Barry Trotz to try to change things up among his lineup. Josh Bailey was moved to the third line and Zach Parise was elevated to the top line during Saturday’s practice.

Trotz told reporters that the team needed to play better after Saturday’s practice and reiterated that on Sunday before they left for Tampa Bay.

“We’re a four-line team and we rely on all four lines,” Trotz said. “We rely on our six defensemen and our goaltending. When we don’t have four lines going or we only have two lines going, we’re not as good a team. Everybody shares in a piece of that. I just want our players to be as close to the best version they can of themselves as players. And the best version of themselves within the framework of our team so that we can have success together. … We need some players to play better on their line.

“We need lines to play better. We need our power play. Usually, your most skilled players are on your power play. Our power play hasn’t been going good and it’s on our staff and it’s on the players themselves.”

The power play hasn’t been the only issue plaguing the Islanders thus far. The Islanders have given up an unusually high number of scoring chances, particularly over the past two games.

The defensive unit hasn’t changed much outside of the fact that Nick Leddy was traded to Detroit and the Islanders added Zdeno Chara. Trotz did have to adjust the defensive pairing and split up top defenseman Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech to stabilize the blue line.

“We just have to get those down,” Trotz said about the chances against. “When we do we have success. It’s just we have to know who we are, how we have to do it and just do it.”

Monday’s Stanley Cup Semifinals rematch could provide the extra jolt the Islanders need to get things back on track. However, Amalie Arena hasn’t been the most welcoming place for the New York Islanders.

While the storyline may be a juicy one, the Islanders are focused on Monday’s game because of the importance they know it holds right now.

“We’re not going to get our revenge tomorrow night by winning a hockey game, but we can start to build towards the team we want to be,” Matt Martin said. “We need to start winning hockey games. We need to play strong and get ourselves to the playoffs. There’s still a lot of games to go, but the focus is a Stanley Cup. … It’s an important game for us to start playing better, start playing well and obviously they’re one of the top teams in the league. It’s a good opportunity for us.”