SAINT PAUL, Minn. — As they embark on a two-game road trip, the New York Islanders are getting used to new skaters playing together.
In the midst of a six-game homestand, the injury-riddled Minnesota Wild are doing the same thing.
The difference is that the Islanders are winning, while the Wild are still figuring it out.
The Islanders have won three in a row prior to making their only visit to Minnesota on Thursday. Their most recent win was a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes in Brooklyn. John Tavares had his first hat trick of the season, but he sees much room for improvement in his team’s overall game.
“Not every game is pretty. We found a way today and we’ll build on it. A couple tough opponents coming up on the road and we need to elevate to another level,” said Tavares, who has seven points in the Islanders’ last two games. “We have to be realistic and realize that this is a tough league and you can’t take any team for granted, because it’s so competitive.
“You’re not going to dominate every single game or every single shift. It’s just how you respond when things aren’t going your way or you’re not as sharp as you’d like to be. That’s what I like: Staying with it for 60 minutes and giving ourselves a chance to win.”
Minnesota is 0-1-1 at home this season after dropping a 1-0 decision to Vancouver on Tuesday, and the Wild is still looking for offensive spark with three prominent forwards — Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter — missing because of injuries.
“I’m just disappointed that we lost, whether it’s the home or the road. You love to win at home in front of your fans,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said, after his team was blanked for the first time this season. “I would’ve been just as disappointed to start a road trip with a loss. No matter if it’s home or away, when you lose, you’re not happy.”
While the Wild have lacked excitement, Islanders coach Doug Weight said he feels his team has been a little bit too exciting, taking defensive risks, and wants to rein in his players a bit.
“We’ve got some new guys and new lines. We’re just not consistent enough moving the puck up and predictable enough,” Weight said. “That’s something that may bore a lot of people to hear, but it’s a necessity in the game. You can freelance a bit at times, but if they’re 38 or 18, they’re still kids. Give them a little rope and they go play with it. That’s been hampering us a little bit.”
For two of the Islanders’ young stars — Brock Nelson and Anders Lee — it’s a homecoming of sorts; they hail from Minnesota.
If history is any guide, it will be a close game. Of the 22 meetings, half have been decided by one goal.
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