It is starting to become desperate times out on Long Island as the New York Islanders’ losing streak has reached six games. They are coming off a very disappointing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, where they fell in overtime on a controversial goal. They are barely holding onto their playoff spot as the New York Rangers remain right on their tail. Despite the team getting healthy toward the end of the season, they have many players that have struggled to produce, and they don’t seem to have any veteran forwards sticking in the lineup.
While blame can be dealt all around, Leo Komarov had a very tough week. He was a minus-three in the first period in their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. He was unable to get a body on either of the two shots that Montreal scored on in the period and then turned the puck over, leading to the third Canadiens’ goal.
Komarov was then scratched on Thursday in the team’s disappointing loss on the road against the Ottawa Senators and took a double minor for high sticking in their latest game. He is mainly used on the penalty kill and has received less than 11 minutes of ice time in each of his past four games. Komarov may see his time in the lineup come to an end with Casey Cizikas close to returning.
Another veteran that can’t seem to get going is Derick Brassard, who was brought in during the offseason to fill the spot left by Valtteri Filppula. His best stretch of the season came during the Islanders’ 17-game point streak, but that was when he played on the wing with Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson. Brassard had a chance to reconnect with his former linemates after the Islanders acquired Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though Brassard has not produced much. He continues to remain on the power play, which has struggled, going 6-for-47 since the All-Star break.
Also, the Islanders have not received anything from Matt Martin in the past few months and he seems to be a different player when Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck aren’t on his line. For a player who is not used on special teams and is not a goalscorer, it begs the question of why he continues to play. Even with the Islanders having a couple of fights this week, it has been players like Beauvillier and Anders Lee dropping the gloves in a role Martin is more accustomed to.
While Clutterbuck has only been healthy for a couple of games, he has not produced any offense and was scratched on Saturday. Like Komarov, he is a penalty killer, which gives him an advantage over some other players that may come out of the lineup.
What to do Next?
While Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom both remain in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, at some point, they may get another shot if the Islanders continue to struggle scoring goals. With the trade deadline in the past, the Islanders will need to get it done with in-house players.
It will be fascinating to see how the Islanders go about their lineup and see the way the ice time is split up. With a bit more of a break in the schedule, the Isles have the opportunity to ride out their stars a little more in desperation. They’ve struggled of late to score goals on the road and will have to do it against a couple of tough netminders during their trip to Western Canada. For many players, a strong month of March could erase the first five months of their season.
Head coach Barry Trotz will likely continue to rotate his lineup and see if any of those players can get going. Andrew Ladd looked excellent in the game against the Hurricanes and will likely receive time on the third line with Pageau. The Martin-Cikizas-Clutterbuck line will probably get back together. That will lead one open spot for Brassard, Michael Dal Colle, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Ross Johnston if a call-up is not made by then.