The NY Islanders (10-7-6, 26 points) are back on Long Island to open their six-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks (6-17-2, 14 points).
On Saturday, the Islanders persevered through a tough 4-3 victory at FLA Live Arena against the Florida Panthers. The Islanders were shorthanded from the outset, losing Mathew Barzal for the game due to illness. The Isles' power play stayed hot with a 1st-period goal from Anders Lee but was quickly erased by a goal from Sam Reinhart. The 2nd-period started well, with Pierre Engvall and Simon Holmstrom scoring within the first ten minutes. Florida would come back to make it 3-2 before Julien Gauthier's 3rd-period goal made it 4-2. The Isles gave us another late-game scare with Carter Verhaeghe's goal that cut the lead to 4-3. However, Ilya Sorokin stole the show, having saved 42 of 45 shots and earning his 6th win of the season.
Bo Horvat stepped up in a big way against the Panthers, recording three assists in a Barzal-less game. Oliver Wahlstrom started the game on the Isles top line, but after a turnover led to a couple of breakaways for Florida, he was moved down for Gauthier. This change by Lane Lambert paid dividends as Gauthier provided the speed and energy with 2 points and set up Holmstrom for his 7th goal on the season.
The Sharks cannot catch a break, having lost 17 games in regulation already this season. In their previous game against the NY Rangers on Sunday, the Sharks fell behind early 3-2 after two goals from Artemi Panarin and one from Mika Zibanejad. The Sharks surrendered three more goals to fall behind 6-3 in the 3rd period before Fabian Zetterlund and Alexander Barabanov scored in the final minutes. The late flurry wasn't enough, as the Rangers topped the Sharks 6-5 at Madison Square Garden.
The Islanders destroyed the Sharks in the 2022-23 season. At UBS Arena on October 18, 2022, the Islanders won 5-2 on the back of Semyon Varlamov, saving 27 of 29 shots. After trailing 1-0 for the first half of the game, Lee, Zach Parise, and Wahlstrom scored in the 2nd-period. After Wahlstrom scored again in the 3rd period, Cal Clutterbuck put the icing on the cake with an empty netter.
Amid their playoff stretch run, the Isles traveled to the San Francisco Bay area to play the Sharks at SAP Center. Once again, the Isles found themselves down 1-0 early on a goal from Kevin Lebanc. This would be 'all she wrote' for the Sharks, as the Isles put up four unanswered goals from J.G. Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, Ryan Pulock, and Parise. As per the 2022-23 season, Sorokin played the superhero, saving 29 out of 30 shots in an Islanders 4-1 victory.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Holmstrom has now scored in back-to-back games, recording more goals this season (7) than in 2022-23 (6) through just 23 games. He has seemed to find his rhythm playing alongside Pageau and Wahlstrom on the Isles' third line. Gauthier showed great plus speed, a strong forecheck, and an ability to shoot the puck against the Panthers. Horvat is starting to heat up as well, now having 5 points in the past three games.
For the Sharks, their veteran top 3 forwards have produced well in Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, and Zetterlund. They are still aggressive on the forecheck and have blocked more than 20 shots a piece. Tomas Hertl leads the Sharks in points with 18 and has won 57% of his face-offs taken this season. Should the Sharks second line play against the Isles second, expect Brock Nelson to have some trouble in the face-off circle.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom - J.G. Pageau – Julien Gauthier
Hudson Fasching - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Samuel Bolduc - Ryan Pulock
Mike Reilly - Scott Mayfield
Fabian Zetterlund - Mikael Granlund - Anthony Duclair
William Eklund - Tomas Hertl - Alexander Barabanov
Justin Bailey - Ryan Carpenter - Kevin Lebanc
Givani Smith - Jacob MacDonald - Mike Hoffman
Mario Ferraro - Kyle Burroughs
Calen Addison - Matt Benning
Nikita Okhotyuk - Jan Rutta