Islanders open four-game road swing against Avalanche
Hitting the road isn't normally seen as a good thing for NHL teams, but the New York Islanders are embracing their longest trip of the season to date.
New York (15-12-4) starts a four-game Western Conference swing Monday night at Colorado with a good attitude and with the hope of building momentum after a 4-3 shootout win over Detroit on Saturday night.
"I think it's kind of nice, get on the road, be together as a group, kind of get that bonding again," center Mathew Barzal told Newsday after the win over the Red Wings. "I get excited playing in front of other fans. I think we all do."
The Islanders will be on the road when the NHL roster freeze starts Wednesday and concludes Sunday in Dallas just ahead of the Christmas break.
"It's right before Christmas, right before everyone gets to see family and get some time off," Anthony Beauvillier, who extended his goal streak to three games on Saturday, told Newsday. "It's going to be a lot of fun."
Beauvillier might change his tune when facing the high-scoring Avalanche on Monday night. Colorado (18-9-6) has scored 121 goals, tops in the Western Conference and third overall, and is coming off a 6-4 win over Dallas on Saturday night.
The top line for the Avalanche has combined for 148 points this season and scored five of the six goals against the Stars.
Colorado could have had more goals Saturday but had two disallowed upon review.
The third member, captain Gabe Landeskog, has 21 goals, tied with MacKinnon for the team lead.
"I'm fortunate to be part of such a good line that finds different ways to score goals," Landeskog said after the game.
The Avalanche pulled out that win on Landeskog's goal at 16:40 gave them the lead, and MacKinnon added an empty-netter 1:57 later after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period.
New York has had issues with the third period this season before pulling one out against Detroit at home. It was the first time in 10 games the Islanders have won when trailing after two periods but helped them improve to 3-3-1 in December.
New York might need to put up more goals Monday than it has lately. The Islanders average 2.9 goals per game but only 2.3 in the last seven. That might not be enough against a team that averages 3.7 goals per game.
They also can't afford to lose ground in the playoff race. Even though it's only December, dropping valuable points could make things tougher down the road.
"You're going to see in these next four, five games things start to settle in a little bit," New York captain Anders Lee told Newsday. "It's that time of the year where these points are crucial. Moves are starting to be made and things start to get a little more set in stone. It only gets harder and harder to climb out of a hole if you get put in one."