Can the New York Islanders finally end the losing streak?
They’ll try on Friday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town for the first time this season. The Islanders have dropped their last seven games and have been outscored 31-7 in that span.
New York got its first bit of good news on Friday when it was revealed that Josh Bailey was back on the ice after finally coming out of COVID protocol. Bailey will not be in the Islanders lineup against Pittsburgh, but the club is hoping to have him back by Sunday.
None of the other six players still in COVID protocol will return to the Islanders lineup, which means some variation of the same lineup from Wednesday will be on the ice for New York. New York will get back defenseman Noah Dobson, who had been day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh went through their own issues with COVID recently, but they won’t be taking any pity on the Islanders, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
Pittsburgh is entering Friday’s game at UBS Arena on a five-game winning streak and as a team that has taken points in 12 of their last 14 meetings with the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh is 12-4-3 over its last 19 games against New York.
“They’re playing well,” Mathew Barzal said of Pittsburgh. “They’ve had some injuries with (Evgeni) Malkin and Sid (Crosby) being out to start there and really just battled through, and just found ways to win. They always seem to be right in the mix. They always seem to be a good team. They play fast, they got a really good D core, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us tonight. Obviously, we’re looking to just play our game and just build. Try to have a good first period and then just build from there.”
Pittsburgh’s lineup is expected to look the same as it did against Vancouver on Wednesday and Tristan Jarry will get the start in net.
At 5-9-2, the Islanders desperately need to get back in the win column before their hopes at making the postseason start to diminish. Barzal told reporters that the mood in the locker room was better than the perception has been from the outside.
Still, head coach Barry Trotz knows that a win would go a long way for the psyche of the team.
“You know what will free our minds, is a win,” Trotz said. “COVID aside. It’s great that we see Josh here and it will be great when we see Anders Lee here or the next guy, but we’re in a position where we have to win hockey games. We have to find a way to win hockey games.”
New York Islanders Lines (Projected)
Richard Panik — Mathew Barzal — Zach Parise
Anthony Beauvillier — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Kyle Palmieri
Andy Andreoff — Otto Koivula — Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Robin Salo — Scott Mayfield
Thomas Hickey — Noah Dobson
Sebastian Aho — Grant Hutton
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines (Projected)
Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker — Jeff Carter — Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen — Evan Rodrigues — Dominik Simon
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brock McGinn
Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson — John Marino
Mike Matheson — Chad Ruhwedel
The New York Islanders have played three straight games in front of a sellout crowd of 17,255. Last Saturday was the team’s first game at the brand new UBS Arena. … The Islanders will not leave the Eastern Time Zone until they face the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 4. Their only consecutive games on the road comes in a few days when they face the New York Rangers on Sunday and then travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday. … New York is 5-3-2 when scoring the first goal and are 0-6-0 when allowing their opponent score first. …Jake Guentzel has points in every single road game this season (7GP, 5G-4A) for Pittsburgh. … Pittsburgh has picked up points in 12 of its last 14 games against New York. … Bryan Rust has nine goals in his last 11 games against the Islanders.
How to Watch
Friday’s game will air on MSG+ and MSG Go. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 1050 AM ESPN, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 LI News Radio.