The New York Islanders will look to continue their newfound winning ways on the road Saturday afternoon.
For the first time all season, the Islanders won consecutive road games, and it could not have come at a better time for the surging team. New York, which currently finds itself ahold of the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, started a season-long nine-game stretch away from Brooklyn with wins at Detroit on Tuesday and Montreal on Thursday.
The Isles next stop will be in Columbus, where they face a Blue Jackets team trying to finish a seven-game homestand on a winning note.
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With a 9-13-4 mark away from the Barclays Center, the Islanders are one of six NHL teams with fewer than 10 wins on the road. However, center John Tavares told New York Newsday after Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the Canadiens that record doesn’t indicate everything about the team.
“We know how to win on the road, and we’ve played some good games on the road,” said the Islanders captain, who scored an empty-net goal and an assist in the win. “No one’s afraid of playing in these kinds of games.”
Tavares’ line, the Islanders top line, has sparked the recent resurgence for the team. On Jan. 17, when Doug Weight took over coaching duties after the team fired Jack Capuano, New York had 42 points in 42 games and was looking up to everyone in the Eastern Conference. They now have 68 points in 60 games.
Since then, the line of Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey has combined for 21 goals and 29 assists.
“It’s been a clinic by them for six, seven weeks,” Weight told the Newsday. “They’re really confident right now, and I’m confident in them, the team’s feeding off their play as well.”
Columbus has gone 3-3-0 during its current 17-day stint at home.
The up-and-down homestand has been a missed opportunity for the Blue Jackets. On Feb. 8, the day before it began, they sat second in the Metropolitan Division standings seven points behind Washington with two games in hand.
Heading into Friday’s action, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the top wild card spot with 79 points in 58 games, having been surpassed in the division by both the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh. They’re now eight points behind the Capitals with just one game in hand.
While the homestand ends on Saturday, the Islanders game comes on the heels of the Blue Jackets league mandated five-day off period and starts a stretch of nine games in the next two weeks.
“It’s different for the whole league,” said Tortorella via the Blue Jackets website, after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Nashville, about the week off. “This hasn’t been done before in the middle of the year, and you can see how teams have struggled. Hopefully, we’ll try to find a way to scrap away here and get our game back as quickly as possible after the break.”
One of the players Tortorella believed would be best served by the break is 19-year-old defenseman Zach Werenski, whose 36 points in 58 games rank fifth on the team in scoring and plus-16 rating ranks second.
“He’s not used to playing this amount of hockey, and I think the break’s going to help him,” Tortorella said. “Some of the stuff he does, that’s not teachable. It’s just in him.”
The Blue Jackets announced a series of moves on Friday. The called up left winger Markus Hannikainen and goalie Joonas Korpisalo from Cleveland. Goalie Anton Forsberg was sent down to the AHL squad.