Islanders prepare for step up in competition against Jackets (Jan 24, 2017)
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders picked up five points in the first three games of a season-long six-game homestand. But the real challenge begins Tuesday night, when the Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center.
The visit by the Blue Jackets begins at three-game stretch in which the Islanders host the top three teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens arrive Thursday and the Washington Capitals, who beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday to break a tie with the Blue Jackets not only atop the Metropolitan Division but the entire NHL, head to Barclays Center on Jan. 31.
It's an imposing task for the Islanders, who fell in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Sunday and will enter Tuesday tied with the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference.
But any chance the Islanders have of climbing into playoff contention -- they are five points behind the Flyers for the second Eastern wild card -- rests on maintaining the successful start to the homestand.
"We're playing some good hockey, which requires a lot of energy," said interim head coach Doug Weight, who has directed the Islanders to a 2-0-1 record since taking over for the fired Jack Capuano last Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets certainly expended a lot of energy on Sunday, when they outlasted the Ottawa Senators 7-6 in overtime. It was only the second time in franchise history that Columbus has won a game in which it gave up at least six goals.
"You can say (the game was fun) because we got the two points," forward Cam Atkinson told The Columbus Dispatch after scoring the winning goal 1:09 into overtime. "If we lost, it would have been a different story."
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella didn't find much satisfaction in pulling out the victory.
"I don't know what to tell you," Tortorella told The Dispatch. "I'm certainly not going to dissect it. I just don't know what to tell you. I'm speechless."
The Blue Jackets will hope for a better defensive effort Tuesday, when starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is expected back in net. Bobrovsky didn't play in the second game of a back-to-back Sunday but has allowed just six goals in his last four starts dating to Jan. 8.
New Islanders Mo. 1 goalie Thomas Greiss will likely oppose Bobrovsky. Greiss received second star honors last week when he authored consecutive shutouts against the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars.
Greiss has allowed just three goals on 99 shots over three starts. He is 4-2-3 since former starter Jaroslav Halak was waived Dec. 31 and eventually assigned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.
Islanders left winger Andrew Ladd is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday after missing four straight games with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Travis Hamonic remains on injured reserve and is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury he suffered Jan. 7.
Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara and David Savard are day to day with undisclosed injuries. Nutivaara has been sidelined the last four games and Savard has missed the last two.