Game Preview: NY Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, 12/7/2023, 7:30 PM ET

Can the Islanders claim a critical two points against the last-place Blue Jackets after squandering a point against the last-place Sharks on Tuesday night?

Bo Horvat has been as advertised for the Islanders this season, unlocking Mathew Barzal's offensive potential and putting up 20 points in 23 games.
Bo Horvat has been as advertised for the Islanders this season, unlocking Mathew Barzal's offensive potential and putting up 20 points in 23 games. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders (10-7-7) will host their division rivals, the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets (8-14-5), tonight at UBS Arena. After another disastrous blown lead Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, the Islanders are desperate for two points. At this point, it has become a bit of a country club on the Island, and changes are bound to occur if the situation doesn't change soon.

That being said, the Islanders are still hanging on in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, so all is not lost. But they need to figure out how to tighten up and hold leads in the third period; otherwise, the season promises to get away from them quickly.

LAST GAME

As mentioned above, the Islanders lost to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night at UBS Arena. Tomas Hertl's hat trick proved too much to overcome, as their 4-1 lead evaporated quickly and inexplicably left the Isles with one measly point. On a more positive note, Mike Reilly scored his first goal as an Islander and had an otherwise strong game, proving so far to be a wise acquisition in the wake of the injuries to Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho.

Mike Reilly
Mike Reilly has been a shrewd acquisition for the NY Islanders. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. Drew Doughty scored 33 seconds into overtime to clinch the win for the Kings, who tied an NHL record by starting out 10-0-0 on the road.

HISTORICAL MATCH-UP

The Islanders are 26-16-1-8 all-time against the Blue Jackets. In the last game between the two teams, on October 28th, the Islanders shut out the Jackets 2-0 in Columbus, with Semyon Varlamov recording his 39th career shutout.

The Islanders went 2-1 in 3 games against the Blue Jackets last season, and are 7-3 against Columbus in their last 10 games against each other.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

NYI: Bo Horvat. The Islanders could use some leadership, and a bit of a kick in the behind in the third period. Enter Bo Horvat. Horvat was acquired not only to provide Mathew Barzal with a linemate capable of unlocking his immense offensive potential, but also to provide the leadership expected of a longtime NHL captain in Vancouver. Horvat has certainly succeeded on the first count, with Barzal putting up 23 points in his first 23 games and Horvat putting up 20 points in 23 games. It is that second count where Horvat could really help the Islanders next. The Islanders have acknowledged that the third period struggles have gotten into their head, so if they are fortunate enough to have a lead in the third period tonight, Horvat needs to rally the troops and keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal: securing an absolutely crucial two points tonight.

Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau needs to heat up- and fast- for the Blue Jackets. / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

CBJ: Johnny Gaudreau. Who else but the player many expected to join the Islanders in the summer of 2022? Gaudreau has struggled along with the rest of the Blue Jackets this season, with only 4 goals and 15 points in 27 games. Gaudreau's struggles are indicative of an organization-wide inability to maximize talent, and it would seem that changes in the front office would be on the horizon for the Jackets. Whatever happens in the front office, the Blue Jackets and Gaudreau are stuck with each other, so both sides have incentive for Gaudreau to find his game again soon.

PROJECTED LINE-UPS

NYI

Anders Lee- Bo Horvat- Mathew Barzal

Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri

Simon Holmstrom- JG Pageau- Julien Gauthier

Hudson Fasching- Casy Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck

Alexander Romanov- Noah Dobson

Samuel Bolduc- Ryan Pulock

Mike Reilly- Scott Mayfield

Semyon Varlamov

Ilya Sorokin

CBJ

Johnny Gaudreau- Boone Jenner- Justin Danforth

Yegor Chinakov- Dmitri Voronkov- Kirill Marchenko

Kent Johnson- Adam Fantilli- Emil Bemstrom

Alexandre Texier- Sean Kuraly- Mathieu Olivier

Zach Werenski- Nick Blankenburg

Ivan Provorov- Andrew Peeke

Jake Bean- David Jiricek

Spencer Martin

Jet Greaves

Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff.