The Carolina Hurricanes are not the team to face amid a losing streak, but that’s what the Islanders have to do Saturday night at UBS Arena.
January was always going to be a testing month for the Islanders and with five games left in the eight days before the All-Star break, they are flunking. Their struggles, however, began earlier than that, on Dec. 10 when the Hurricanes (who else?) walked into UBS Arena and shut the Islanders down, 3-0.
“We weren’t able to sustain pressure because we couldn’t get by them enough and get in their zone to create that, and when we did, they did a decent job,” Anders Lee said that night. “We had some looks, but you gotta have more, we gotta have a higher quantity there, too.”
“They were on top of us,” coach Lane Lambert said. “They had an answer for everything that we tried to do.”
At the time, with the Islanders sitting at 17-12-0, it didn’t seem like cause for alarm. In retrospect, those words sound like a familiar refrain to the issues that have plagued the Islanders since then.
Struggles to break out of the zone. Issues creating high-danger looks. Feeling overmatched by elite speed. That has been the story of just about every loss since then, and there have been seven in regulation and five in overtime.
Oh, and injuries. The Islanders are still missing Adam Pelech, who got hurt just four days before that Dec. 10 game, and Kyle Palmieri, who went down on Nov. 21 and returned briefly on Dec. 16, but hasn’t been seen since sustaining a hit from Arizona’s Nick Ritchie in that game.
They’re also without Oliver Wahlstrom indefinitely. Cal Clutterbuck (upper-body) and Hudson Fasching (lower-body) are both question marks for Saturday after being declared day-to-day following the 3-2 overtime loss to the Sabres on Thursday.
Carolina, which leads the Metropolitan Division with a 27-9-8 record and has gotten points in each of its last four games, allows just 2.67 goals per game. That’s not good for the Islanders, whose scoring average has fallen below three goals per 60 minutes with this recent slide.
“We are all grown men, we’re professionals and we have to move on,” Lambert said following the loss Thursday. “We’re in the business of being ready for the next game.”