EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — A few months ago it looked like playing five of their final seven games of the year on the road would be a detriment to the Islanders, but considering the team’s 0-4-1 record in their last five home games it may be a blessing in disguise.
“It changes quick doesn’t it,” interim head coach Doug Weight said with a chuckle when asked about it after Wednesday’s practice on Long Island. Weight was of course referring to the Islanders suddenly strong road record compared to where it was just a few months ago.
The Islanders have been 8-3-1 on the road since their franchise record nine-game road trip, which started on February 21 in Detroit. But, while their road record improved from the 7-13-4 mark the team’s home record had suffered.
So with the Islanders still in the playoff hunt, despite dropping back-to-back games on Saturday night and Monday, perhaps only having two games left at the Barclays Center isn’t the worst thing in the world.
“To me we’ve played really good hockey on the road,” Weight said. “We’ve been in games with the exception of two games in the last two months, in Toronto and Columbus. We’ve really managed to be right in games. We deserved a better fate in games like Detroit and St. Louis, so I feel very comfortable with this team on the road.”
The Islanders will need a much better effort than the ones they’ve had in their previous two games. Their losses to Boston and Nashville, coupled with wins by teams the Islanders chasing and ones that are chasing the Islanders, have put them in a precarious situation going into Philadelphia.
The Islanders have 82 points in the standings, which is two points shy of the Boston Bruins and the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is also a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has 83 points, and the Carolina Hurricanes are tied with the Islanders at 82 points.
And if that wasn’t enough in the chaotic race for the final playoff spot, the Philadelphia Flyers and their 80 points are still in the race as well.
“Every game is so important right now regardless of where we’re playing or who we’re playing,” John Tavares said. “We’re a desperate hockey team. Certainly we’ve gotten some better results on the road, so hopefully we can build on that.”
The Islanders could get some help on their blue line on Thursday with the potential return of Johnny Boychuk. The Islanders’ defenseman hasn’t played in the last 12 games due to a foot injury, but has skated in the team’s practices Tuesday and Wednesday.
Weight would not say for sure if Boychuk will be in the lineup against Philadelphia. “I’d like to have him in that’d be great,” Weight said.
The return of a veteran defenseman could help give the Islanders a boost, and Weight believes a win on Thursday could shift the momentum in the standings.
“Mark my words if we can win tomorrow pressure sways quick in this race with these five teams,” Weight said. “We’ve been on both sides of it. I’d like us to have a big statement tomorrow and sway some of that pressure back. That’s what it’s all about. We have to win a game against a real good team, a hungry team, that now thinks they have a chance too.”