NEW YORK — Two teams on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference wild-card race will square off in a pivotal game Friday night when the New York Islanders host the Detroit Red Wings at Barclays Center.
Both teams will be looking to snap two-game losing streaks. The visiting Islanders stormed back from a three-goal deficit Thursday night before falling to the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The host Red Wings lost to the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Tuesday night.
For the Islanders (26-23-6), the loss to the Eastern Conference-worst Sabres cost them a chance to gain sole possession of the second wild card. Instead, New York enters Friday tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have two games in hand.
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The two teams are three points behind the wild card-leading Philadelphia Flyers.
The loss Thursday was doubly frustrating for the Islanders, who outshot the Sabres 29-22 and came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score late in the third period before the Sabres’ Sam Reinhart scored the game-winner with 4:14 left.
The 22 shots allowed by the Islanders were the fewest they’ve surrendered since Dec. 19, when the Red Wings collected 21 shots in a 6-3 win at Barclays Center.
“We had a lot of good chances and a lot of good opportunities and we’ve got to find a way to win these games,” Islanders coach Doug Weight told the team’s postgame television show Thursday night. “Losing stinks and it’s not something that we can do a lot of coming down the stretch here. But we’re going to win some games if we play like that, if we play smart like we did.”
The Red Wings (21-23-8) are also nearing must-win territory if they hope to return to the playoffs. Detroit, which made the postseason in 25 straight seasons before missing last year, enters Friday eight points behind the Islanders and Blue Jackets.
“I think there’s a huge urgency (to) the games we have coming — the games we have ahead of us will make the latter games matter,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told reporters after practice Thursday. “It’s a critical junction.”
With the Islanders playing the second game of a back-to-back set, backup goalie Thomas Greiss will likely draw an increasingly rare start against the Red Wings’ top net-minder, Petr Mrazek.
Greiss last played Jan. 31 when he took the loss after making 45 saves as the Islanders fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0. Jaroslav Halak has started 18 of the last 21 games for New York, including Thursday night, when he had 18 saves in taking the loss against the Sabres.
Mrazek, who sat in favor of Jimmy Howard against the Bruins on Tuesday, hasn’t played since last Saturday, when he took the loss after recording 30 saves as the Red Wings fell to the Florida Panthers, 3-2.
Greiss is 2-2-1 in six career appearances against the Red Wings. Mrazek is 6-3-0 in 10 games against the Islanders.