'Settled' Islanders set to face fading Red Wings
The New York Islanders displayed their formula for making the playoffs during their past two games.
They recorded a 2-0 shutout against Columbus on Monday, then edged Montreal 2-1 on Thursday.
Not only did they improve their postseason prospects with those low-scoring victories, they also moved without striking distance of the Washington Capitals' lead in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders will be seeking their third straight victory and fifth in the last six games when they travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon.
Anders Lee scored the game-winning goal with 2:57 remaining against the Canadiens.
"These are the types of games we're going to see for the rest of the year," Lee said, according to NHL.com. "Even earlier in the season we seemed to be in one-goal games. For the most part, we're used to it. We've settled in. These are the tight games you've got to have."
Goalie Thomas Greiss has been stellar this week, making 64 saves in the two wins, while notching his fifth shutout of the season.
He's gotten a boost from his defensemen, who have kept mistakes to a minimum. They've also made offensive contributions, as a defenseman has scored in four of the last five games.
Against Montreal, Adam Pelech scored his fifth goal of the season in the second period.
"Pelly was outstanding," coach Barry Trotz said. "He's continued to play firm in the defensive zone and is jumping up at the right times and playing with confidence. He's a lot different player than at the start of the year.""
The trip to Detroit begins a tough stretch in which the Islanders play six of the next eight games on the road. New York leads the season series 2-0 after securing a pair of one-goal victories over Detroit in December, one in a shootout.
The Wings will get their top player back in action. Center Dylan Larkin, who has a team-best 27 goals and 35 assists, practiced on Friday and will play after missing five consecutive games with a neck strain.
Larkin said he wouldn't return at this stage unless he was sure the injury had healed.
"There's really no need to rush back until I feel 100 percent," he said. "This part of the season, a neck injury that could be worse, I wouldn't rush back. I don't feel I'm rushing. It's been pretty tough to watch this past week, sitting out. I want to be out there. I feel 100 percent and I feel ready to help this team out."
Larkin tried to tough it out but finally realized he was doing more harm than good.
"It happened a couple of weeks ago," he said. "I got tangled up with a guy and came out of it with a strained neck. I had increased soreness. It was something I tried to play through, but it wasn't getting better. I felt like I was hurting the team. I wasn't able to turn my head with a full range of motion."
The Wings have dropped 12 of their last 13 games, including the past four. They squandered a three-goal lead to the league's top team, Tampa Bay, on Thursday and lost 5-4.
--Field Level MediaHome