New York Islanders left winger Matt Martin spoke Friday of how he and his teammates were looking forward to the chance to play regularly and while attempting to move back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
However, the fates had other things in mind for the Islanders, whose star-crossed season will be paused yet again after Saturday afternoon’s game against the Edmonton Oilers in Elmont, N.Y.
The Islanders ended a chaotic calendar year Thursday with a 4-1 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The Oilers will be completing a back-to-back road set after falling to the New Jersey Devils 6-5 in overtime on Friday afternoon.
The Islanders expected Saturday to be their final home game before a four-game Western swing, the last three of which were slated to be against the Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers and the Calgary Flames from Jan. 5-11. But with different attendance restrictions in place in each of the Canadian provinces, the NHL postponed those three games as well as New York’s road-trip opener against the Seattle Kraken, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
After Saturday, the Islanders aren’t scheduled to play again until Jan. 13, when they are slated to host the Devils in what was supposed to be the opener of a five-game homestand but will now be the continuation of a nine-game stay at UBS Arena.
The break is the third this season for the Islanders, who had two games postponed Nov. 28-30 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. New York’s holiday pause was extended twice when games against the Buffalo Sabres scheduled for Monday and the Detroit Red Wings scheduled for Wednesday were postponed indefinitely.
The latest interruption landed just as the Islanders, who advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals in June, appeared to be rounding into form. New York has earned points in eight of its past 10 games (4-2-4), but it still sits nine points behind the Red Wings in the race for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
“As a team, we’re excited to, one, be playing hockey again and, two, have guys trickling back in and getting our full lineup back,” Martin said Friday morning. “Climb out of the hole that we’ve dug ourselves.”
The Oilers will be looking to snap out of the rut that sent them from first place in the Pacific Division at the start of December into fourth place in the division and clinging to one of the Western Conference’s wild-card spots. Edmonton went 3-7-1 in December, a span in which it took five losses by at least two goals.
The Oilers appeared as if they might pull out a wild win Friday, when they overcame four one-goal deficits to take the lead shortly before the midway point of the third period on Kailer Yamamoto’s second tally of the game. However, Yegor Sharangovich tied the game with 31.5 seconds left in regulation for the Devils, who won on Jack Hughes’ goal 2:55 into overtime.
“Obviously fighting back is never the way we want to be playing, but it’s better to fight back than just kind of roll over,” said Connor McDavid, who also scored twice. “I like the way we responded. We need to find a way to make that a two-point game.”
The Oilers’ upcoming schedule also has been altered. Four games scheduled from Jan. 8-16 have been postponed, but Edmonton is still slated to play four times in the first half of January.
–Field Level Media