Oilers, Islanders recognize importance of early wins
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders know all too well how playoff aspirations can be ruined by a poor start. They will look to keep reminding Edmonton of that Tuesday night when the skidding Oilers begin a pivotal four-game East Coast trip during an interconference clash at Barclays Center.
The Islanders and Oilers continued traveling in opposite directions Sunday night. New York picked up its sixth win in eight games with a 6-4 victory over the visiting Colorado Avalanche. Host Edmonton fell to the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 for its fifth loss in seven games.
The recent surge by the Islanders (8-5-1) has put them in much better shape than a year ago, when a 6-10-4 record through Thanksgiving weekend left New York in a hole from which it could not recover.
The Islanders turned things around last season under Doug Weight, who was named head coach on Jan. 17 and steered the team to a 24-12-4 finish that left the club one point shy of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
However, even though Weight has overseen a solid start in his first full season, he is nowhere near satisfied, especially after New York gave up two goals in the final 30 seconds of the Sunday win.
"Listen, no one's trying to ignore guys in coverage and sleep, but that's what happened -- it's a shame," Weight said. "It's two points, and we've got to get better from it, somehow. I'm not going to -- I refuse to put it in a cabinet. I just cannot do that. So I won't do that."
The Oilers (4-8-1) are at a juncture where any points will look like good points. Edmonton, fueled by rookie superstar Connor McDavid, snapped the NHL's longest playoff drought last season when it reached the Western Conference semifinals. The Oilers were a popular pick to reach the Stanley Cup this season.
Yet the Oilers are one of just two teams in the NHL with fewer than 10 points -- ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes.
Edmonton, which also will visit the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in a trip that ends Sunday night, ranks last in the league in goals (30), and its goal differential of minus-13 is fifth worst.
"You don't get to participate in April or May hockey (with a) .333 (winning percentage)," Oilers coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. "You sure don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out."
Oilers ironman goalie Cam Talbot, who has started all 13 games this season, is expected to be in net Tuesday. The Islanders could choose to give Thomas Greiss, who made 31 saves Sunday, consecutive starts for the first time this year.
New York goalie Jaroslav Halak, whose three-start streak was snapped Sunday, stopped just 15 of 19 shots in his previous appearance against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
Talbot is 5-2-0 in nine career appearances against the Islanders. Greiss is 4-0-2 in six career games against the Oilers.
The opener of the road trip will serve as a reunion of sorts for Oilers center Ryan Strome and Islanders right winger Jordan Eberle, who were traded for each other on June 22.
Updated November 6, 2017