The New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues are traveling in opposite directions heading into their game Thursday night.
The streaking Islanders have won four straight games while the slumping Blues have recorded five consecutive regulation losses for the first time since February of 2018.
New York opened its three-game road trip with a 3-1 victory Tuesday at Chicago. The Blues, who fell to Los Angeles 5-1 Monday, will cap a three-game homestand when the Islanders pay a visit.
First-year Islanders coach Lane Lambert is pleased with the state of his team.
“I liked our compete, and I liked our battle,” Lambert said after his team dispatched the Blackhawks. “I thought going down a centerman early in the game, the guys showed a lot of resolve, guys who played in some unfamiliar areas. I thought they picked up the slack.”
The Islanders had to adjust to losing center Casey Cizkas, who exited with a game misconduct for goaltender interference against Chicago. Also, the Islanders were missing forward Matt Martin, who took a paternity leave.
But depth has been one of the Islanders’ strengths this season. They have seven players with three or more goals through 10 games, with Brock Nelson (four goals, seven assists) and Anders Lee (five goals, five assists) setting the pace. Mathew Barzal (10 assists) also is playing well.
Meanwhile, the Blues have been outscored 25-8 during their downturn while struggling in all facets of the game. Captain Ryan O’Reilly (one goal, no assists, minus-11 rating) and Jordan Kyrou (three goals, no assists, minus-13) have had an especially hard time.
“We’re not direct,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “And if you’re not direct, and you’re not predictable, and you’re not hungry, and you’re not desperate out there, if you don’t want to dig in and play hard, you’re gonna get beat. I don’t care what team you’re playing. You’ll get beat. And that’s got to change.”
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong addressed the team Tuesday and sounded a clear warning.
“We need to make sure that this is ground zero and start making our way up,” Armstrong said. “And what I said to the players — we may or may not win on Thursday. Obviously, we’re in the winning business, but what we need to see is a competitive level higher than what we have now.”
If Armstrong doesn’t see progress, the roster could be due for an overhaul.
“Everyone (has) the term retooling, rebuilding,” Armstrong said. “Whatever ‘re’ is, it sucks. I don’t want to be a ‘re’ anything. I want to continue what we’re doing now, and again, it’s very self-serving because I put this together. But we’re not in the belief business, we’re in the winning business.”
Blues winger Brandon Saad remains out of action with an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day and did not practice Wednesday.
Martin is listed as day-to-day for the Islanders, but Lambert does expect him to return from paternity leave sometime during the team’s road trip.
–Field Level Media