With injuries to key players such as Lubomir Visnovsky, Thomas Vanek and Evgeni Nabokov, the New York Islanders are struggling in more ways than one. Their power play is ineffective, the defense is porous and they cant string together a streak of wins no matter what they do. Different players stepping up to lead and the youth in Bridgeport being ready to contribute could be the difference for the Islanders playoff aspirations this season.
The Islanders were once again dealt a body blow last night, as Evegeni Nabokov injured his groin early in the 5-4 shootout victory over the Red Wings. With the groin injury seeming to sideline the veteran goaltenderfor the upwards of 4 weeks, the torch will be officially passed to 23 year old Kevin Poulin. Poulin has been steady so far this season but he has never had the pressure of being the #1 in the NHL.(flickr/lovexanastasia)
The struggling New York Islanders (7-10-3) look to turn things around tonight with Evgeni Nabokov in goal against the visiting Detroit Red Wings (9-5-6). The Red Wings, now a new Eastern Conference opponent due to the alignment change, are facing the Isles for the first time this season after a 4-3 shootout loss last night to the Washington Capitals.
The Isles, who once sat second in the Metropolitan Division, currently sit in 6th, five points behind the second place Capitals and three points behind the third place Carolina Hurricanes.
An inability to hold gain leads and/or hold them has propelled the Islanders to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings (12th in the East) and has allowed their division rivals to surpass them.
The Islanders found themselves floundering after a stretch of poor losses. Nothing erases the bad taste of defeat like consecutive wins. Behind the pads of Kevin Poulin, they took the ice looking to add another win to their record. After four frustrating losses, the Isles' righted the ship against a tough foe. It didn't matter who they were playing, they needed a win. But defeating the Nashville Predators really seemed to ease the nervousness among fans and players.
That loose style was carried over into Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. The Islanders battled hard and rallied around Kevin Poulin's strong effort in net. Although, the Islanders went scoreless in the first, they held the high powered Kings in check.
After a winless road trip, the Islanders returned home to Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night for their second and final meeting of the season with the Nashville Predators. The first meeting was a Predators 3-2 victory last month. Tonight a different story as the Islanders snapped their 4 game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Predators on home ice.
New York’s struggles haven’t been confined to the current trip. Despite beating a good Boston team at home last week, the Isles are 3-6-1 in their last ten. This has dropped them from second in the division to fifth, and they’ve fallen to 11th in the conference. (Photo credit: kwong yee cheng/flikr)
In this context, these two points loom a bit larger. And, the Islanders will have to earn the win without newly acquired Thomas Vanek who was hurt in last night’s loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus.