Throughout the course of an 82-game schedule, some stretches are more important than others.
Players will routinely talk about a "big road trip" coming up or an "important home stand" but that's because they're all big and important to an extent. However, they know when a stretch of games can serve as a pivotal point in the season and determine what type of team they're going to be and what type of season they're going to have.
That's the challenge and opportunity that faces the New York Islanders as they start a four-game road trip in Edmonton later tonight against the Oilers. The Isles are in a rut, having gone 1-3-2 over their last six games and failed to pick a win in four home games (0-2-2). The team now finds itself seventh in the Metropolitan Division after 13 games.
“It's a big road trip for us,” center Bo Horvat said after Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. “We would’ve liked a better homestand, but this is a good opportunity to show what we’re made of and get some wins here on the road.”
The fans are chanting for the firing of the coach and the concerns over the team's lack of scoring are proving once again to be justified. JG Pageau, Pierre Engvall, and Hudson Fasching haven't scored this season. Anders Lee has just two points (1G, 1A) as he struggles to play the role he's had throughout his Islanders career. The goaltending hasn't been the problem, but they haven't been able to make the team's defensive issues either most nights.
“It’ll be a turning point for us,” Brock Nelson said. “We need to turn it around and get our game going.”
If they don't turn things around by the team they return home, it's not hard to imagine where this season is going.