It may only be November, but the NY Islanders are set for a crucial early-season road trip. At a crossroads in their season, points are necessary from the first extended road trip of the season if the Isles hope not to fall out of the playoff race early.
Tonight, the Isles take on one of the league's biggest surprises in the Edmonton Oilers. Fresh off firing Jay Woodcroft and hiring Kris Knoblach from the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, the Isles head into a challenging position in Edmonton tonight. Teams typically react well to their first game following a mid-season coaching change, and the Isles drew the short straw against some of the league's top forwards, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Western Canada and Seattle haven't been friendly to the Isles, winning just once on the four-game trip last season. Outscored 16-10 in the four games, the Isles allowed four goals on three occasions, getting sucked into playing an up-tempo style of play when their strength was on defense.
This year, it's difficult to say the Isles want to play a slower, more defensive style, as their goaltenders have been under siege all season, allowing 34.6 shots per game - third most in the NHL, ahead of only the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks.
Calls from the fans for a coaching change of their own have been ringing from the rafters after chants of "Fire Lambert" were reigned down by the Isles faithful after their loss Saturday night, much to the dismay of Casey Cizikas.
If the Isles come back to Long Island and the road trip goes worse than expected, there's a chance some fans may get their wish. Woodcroft would be a potential replacement, as he's had success with a much more talented roster, going 79-41-13 in his two-plus seasons in Edmonton.
Things can potentially get much uglier before getting better, and if the Isles hope to prevent that, it'll need to start with a win tonight.