After a slow start to the season, the New York Islanders began playing the style of hockey that head coach Barry Trotz prefers during a back-to-back set of games Friday and Saturday. The St. Louis Blues have collected points in four of their first five games, but that doesn’t mean head coach Craig Berube likes what he’s seen from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Islanders will look to mount their first winning streak of the season Monday afternoon when they host the Blues in Uniondale, N.Y.
Both teams were off Sunday after playing Saturday. The host Islanders edged the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in a shootout while the visiting Blues suffered their first regulation loss of the year by falling to the Montreal Canadiens, 6-3.
The Islanders opened last week with consecutive losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes in which they were outscored 10-4, but Trotz said he began to sense a change in New York’s play in Friday’s loss to the Hurricanes.
The Islanders’ familiar stinginess on defense reappeared Saturday, when they were outshot by the Panthers 37-28 — including 14-5 in the third period. New York allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (196) last season.
“You always want some traction,” Trotz said afterward. “You don’t want to revert to our Edmonton game. Let’s be within the real of this one and the one (Friday) night. And if we do that, we’re going to win our share of games.”
The Blues, of course, have done that since they ranked last in the NHL in points in early January before surging to the franchise’s first championship. But Berube was frustrated Saturday night, when St. Louis had a chance to open a season with points in its first five games for the first time ever but allowed the Canadiens to end the evening with four unanswered goals, including three in the third period.
“We didn’t play hard enough,” Berube told reporters afterward. “We didn’t manage the puck. Turning it over and then they transitioned and that’s basically the game.”
The Islanders didn’t practice Sunday, so there was no word on who might start in goal. Semyon Varlamov earned his first win with New York on Saturday when he stopped 35 shots before turning back all three Panthers attempts in the shootout. Varlamov has started three games this season while Thomas Greiss has started two.
Jordan Binnington, who helped spark the Blues’ run to the Cup last season, is likely to draw the start at goalie Monday. Binnington made his fourth start of the season on Saturday when he stopped 32 shots in the loss to the Canadiens.
Islanders center Jordan Eberle might not be available Monday after suffering what appeared to be a leg injury late in the third period Saturday. Trotz had no update on Eberle following the game.
The Islanders are hosting a Western Conference foe on Columbus Day for the fourth time in five seasons. The previous three games — against the Winnipeg Jets in 2015, the Blues in 2017 and the San Jose Sharks last year — all were at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
–Field Level Media