On Saturday night in Pittsburgh, the Islanders outshot the Penguins 35-18, won over 60% of the face-offs, outhit the Pens 53-30, and had a lead in the third period. That type of effort would typically equate to a win, but the Islanders lost 3-2 and they dropped both games in Pittsburgh after an eight-game point streak.
“We just gotta be resilient and go after the next game,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz after the game. “You can’t look back. You just gotta look forward.”
And looking forward means returning to Islanders Country for an extended period of time.
After playing just five of their first 17 games at home, the Islanders will be playing nine of their next ten games at the Nassau Coliseum starting with Monday night’s game against the Sabres. The Islanders have a golden opportunity to bank a lot of points on home ice where they are 4-0-1 this season.
“Everybody likes to be at home,” said Islanders forward Brock Nelson. “With the homestand ahead of us, we want to go home and come out and take advantage of it.”
As a result of the back-to-back losses to the Penguins, the Islanders are now tied with Pittsburgh, but with one less win the Islanders have, for the moment, fallen into 5th place in the East Division and out of a playoff position. With all 56 regular season games being played within the division, every game is a four-point contest and that basically turns each game into a playoff game. As fast as the Islanders surged to within 3 points of first place, the Islanders now look to some home cooking to get back on track.
As we’ve seen so far this season, things can change in a New York minute.
“It will be nice to get home,” said Islanders forward Jordan Eberle. “We’ve played a lot of road games. It will be nice to get back home and get some games going there.”
And the Islanders are hoping that at some point during this stretch of nine out of ten at home that they can start to welcome fans back to Nassau Coliseum. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time that Islanders fans were able to see their team in person was last March 7th. The NHL returned to play over the summer holding the playoffs in a bubble and when this season started, New York State guidelines did not allow fans to attend sporting events.
But starting on Tuesday, teams will be allowed to have a limited number of fans but no more than 10 percent of capacity. The first Islanders game that is eligible for fans would be this Thursday against the Boston Bruins, but the team has not yet announced a plan or on what date they will start welcoming fans back to the Coliseum.
The Islanders are excited to be back home but they’ll be even more excited when they can hear the roar of the crowd, even if it’s only about 1,400 fans.
“It will be nice,” said Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. “It can get a little long on the road it will be nice to be home. We like playing in the Coliseum. We’re hoping we can get (the fans) back in there eventually. We like playing at home so we’re excited.”
As Dorothy pointed out in “The Wizard Of Oz”, there’s no place like home. And for the Islanders, returning home to the Nassau Coliseum for nine of their next ten games is an opportunity to make a move back up the standings. All they have to do now is take advantage of it.