The NY Islanders will host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at UBS Arena in the first of three games against their Metropolitan division rival.
After all their recent success in the third period, the magic was missing Thursday night as the Isles were shut out by the "supposed to be" bottom-dwelling Arizona Coyotes 2-0. The Isles had every opportunity to win but consistently missed the net, giving Karel Vejmelka his first shutout of the campaign. "You can't win if you don't hit the net," said a frustrated Lane Lambert in a post-game press conference. With only 24 shots on goal, the Isles managed to miss the target 23 times while having another 17 blocked. After failing to light the lamp yet this season, Mat Barzal seemed to be pushing for his first goal, often calling for the puck on the half-wall with his stick locked and loaded. However, Barzal missed the net on what may have been the Isles' best opportunity of the night. A cross-ice pass from Brock Nelson on the man advantage left a gaping cage for Barzal, who sent his shot over the net, caroming around the boards. Ilya Sorokin was his usual self, allowing only one goal. He made some spectacular saves, including one off a rebound, which he snatched out of the air while pushing across the crease.
After failing to register a win in the previous 18 games, the Blue Jackets found the win column Thursday night beating the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 5-2. Though a victory is always sweet, it would not come without sacrifice. The Blue Jackets lost three of its top-four defensemen in Zach Werenski, Nick Blankenburg, and Eric Gudbranson. Werenski is the most notiable as he went awkwardly into the boards after trying to deliver a hit to Travis Konecny, his right shoulder taking the brunt of the blow. Werenski lay on the ice before pulling himself up and skating straight to the locker room where he would remain. On Friday, it was announced Werenski will miss the remainder of the season with a torn labrum and separated shoulder, according to Adam Portzline of the Athletic. Blankenburg suffered a broken ankle midway through the third period and will miss six to eight weeks, while Gudbranson is listed as day-to-day. Columbus has recalled Marcus Bjork, Gavin Bayreuther, and David Jiricek. Bjork will be making his NHL debut.
The Islanders found success against the Blue Jackets last season while struggling against most other opponents, going 3-1 in their four matchups. On Columbus' first trip to UBS arena on March 10, captain Anders Lee completed his first career hat-trick with two seconds remaining in the game. Sorokin played magnificent with 25 saves for his sixth shutout of the season in the Isles' 6-0 victory.
Players to Watch
Sorokin will likely be between the pipes in consecutive games after the team's loss against the Coyotes. The third-year netminder now has a 2.09 GAA and a .936 SV%. Barzal continues to search for his first goal of the season while still notching 15 assists in the team's first 15 games.
Of course, Johnny Gaudreau will have the spotlight on him after joining the Blue Jackets in the off-season after it was rumored the Isles were one the favorites to land the Salem, NJ native. In Johnny Hockey's first game against the New Jersey Devils this season, the Devils crowd made sure to voice their displeasure after Gaudreau was negotiating a contract to play in his home state before Columbus swooped in. Gaudreau currently has 12 points (six goals, six assists) on a struggling Columbus team.
Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Oliver Wahlstrom
Zach Parise-Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri
Anthony Beauvillier- JG Pageau- Josh Bailey
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov-Noah Dobson
Sebastian Aho-Scott Mayfield
Johnny Gaudreau-Boone Jenner-Patrik Laine
Gustav Nyquist-Jack Roslovic-Emil Bemstrom
Eric Robinson-Cole Sillinger-Yegor Chinakov
Liam Foudy-Brendan Gaunce-Mathieu Olivier
Vladislav Gavrikov-Andrew Peeke
Jake Bean-David Jiricek
Gavin Bayreuther-Marcus Bjork
Line courtesy of Daily Faceoff