Columbus, Ohio – The Metropolitan Division’s top team, the New York Islanders, are within the friendly confines to take on a hungry team in the Blue Jackets tonight. They are looking to erase the sour taste last night’s 5-2 loss in Toronto left in their mouth.
They will have to do so without the services of Jack Skille, injured in last night’s game. "Jack Skille will out with a lower-body injury," said head coach Todd Richards. "He’ll be out for a couple of weeks, at least." In his place, Corey Tropp draws back into the lineup.
On defense, Dalton Prout comes in for Cody Goloubef. Richards said it was not because of Goloubef’s play, but that he wanted the size that Prout brings in his matchups with the Islanders.
The Islanders are a team that has the speed and skill, similar to the Maple Leafs and will make for a long night if the Blue Jackets don’t come out and establish their game.
"I see some similarities to some of the teams that we just played," said Richards. "They have talent and speed with their forwards up front that can be really dangerous. They’ve got some defensemen on the back end that can skate and join the rush. They play a smothering offensive zone system where their ‘D’ come down the wall and try to keep pucks alive for their forwards."
The Islanders are 13-9-1 on the road this season, having won last night in New Jersey. They come in with the league’s 13th best power play, but are only 26th best with their penalty kill. The Blue Jackets, in contrast, are 3rd with the power play and have climbed to 22nd with their penalty kill unit.
"They’re a talented team," said defenseman Jack Johnson of the Islanders. "What got us in trouble last night were the penalties and that put us behind the eight-ball right away. We can’t do that against the Islanders."
While they have had a setback here and there, the Blue Jackets have been progressively getting better with their team play. Their 12-3-1 record since December 1, 2014, has helped with their confidence in being able to play to their identity. Also, with a healthier roster than what was iced earlier this season, that has factored into their success.
"Some of that has to do with a consistent lineup," said Johnson. "It’s only going to get harder as the season winds down. We’re going to have to get better, because every other team is going to get better. As great as that stretch was in December, we still have a lot of work to do."
Lately, the Blue Jackets have played better in the second game of back-to-back games. Richards is hoping that tonight is no exception, especially against a divisional opponent in the New York Islanders.
"Players know this league is a grind. They were out in Vancouver earlier in the week. So, they had to fly back and then had a road game in New Jersey, we had one in Toronto. We both have done some traveling. There’s no advantage that I see for either team."