As the two NHL teams who fell in the semifinals in June, the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights entered this season with high expectations. But both teams understand why they’re not quite yet looking like Stanley Cup contenders.
The Islanders are scheduled to continue the longest road trip in franchise history Sunday, when they visit the Golden Knights in the first game between the teams in more than 20 months.
The Islanders will be concluding their first back-to-back set after Ilya Sorokin stopped all 26 shots he faced in Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
The Golden Knights were off Saturday after suffering their third straight loss Friday, when the visiting Edmonton Oilers overcame a pair of one-goal deficits on their way to a 5-3 win.
With Saturday’s win, the Islanders improved to 2-2-1 on a 13-game road trip — one game shy of the longest road trip in NHL history — leading into their first game at UBS Arena, scheduled for Nov. 20 against the Calgary Flames.
After giving up 11 goals in their first two games, the Islanders have surrendered just four goals while collecting five points in the last three games while getting adjusted to life on the road — a place they’ve spent plenty of time while mounting back-to-back runs to the NHL’s final four over the last two seasons.
New York fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the Edmonton bubble in September 2020 and didn’t have home ice in any round last spring, when the Islanders pushed the Lightning to seven games.
“We’ve dealt with some weirdness in the last couple years, so we’ve got a lot of practice,” said Islanders right winger Cal Clutterbuck, who scored New York’s first goal Saturday night. “We’ve always come out pretty well. I don’t think we have any doubt it’s going to be any different.”
The Golden Knights, who made the playoffs for the fourth time in as many seasons before losing to the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the other NHL semifinal in June, have encountered plenty of injury-related obstacles on their way to a 1-3-0 start.
First-line mainstays Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have each missed the last two games with injuries suffered against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 14, while Alec Martinez, a top-two defenseman, was sidelined Friday after getting hurt against the St. Louis Blues. In addition, third-line winger Alex Tuch isn’t expected to play until January as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
“We’re working some guys in, in different units and different looks,” Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said Friday night. “It can be frustrating, but if you go down that road and jump on that train, it’s a long season. We’ve got time here to get it right and get it figured out.”
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said late Saturday he didn’t know if Sorokin, who has started all five games with Semyon Varlamov battling an undisclosed injury, would start again Sunday or if Cory Schneider would make his New York debut in net.
An Islanders goalie hasn’t started both ends of a back-to-back since Robin Lehner — who will likely start Sunday for Vegas — earned wins on March 23-24, 2019, during his lone season in New York.
The Islanders and Golden Knights last played on Feb. 15, 2020, when Reilly Smith scored the game’s lone goal late in the second period to give host Vegas a 1-0 win.
–Field Level Media