Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, players can relax that they have not been moved and fans have had a night's sleep to recuperate from the anxiety that the day brought.
Islanders GM Garth Snow made no moves Wednesday, choosing to not meet the exorbitant price set on number one target Matt Duchene by Colorado GM Joe Sakic, who was under no pressure to move a highly skilled, coveted player with two years remaining on his contract.
The focus now, for all involved, must quickly shift to the continuation of a brutal road trip the team currently finds itself on, as they play game four of the nine-game bender Thursday night in Dallas against the Stars.
After winning the first two games, 3-1 in Detroit and 3-0 in Montreal, New York fell flat in Columbus, 7-0, on Saturday -- their last game before the mini four-day break coincided with the team's annual casino night event and the 'let's talk but not really get anything done' deadline.
The Islanders will now play 10 games over the next 16 days, seven on the road, including matches with the Blackhawks, who have been almost unbeatable their last 10, and the surging Oilers, to name just two. It does not get any easier upon returning home for a back-to-back with the Hurricanes from March 13-14 as the Rangers, Penguins, Bruins, and Flyers await them in the weeks to close out March.
Sitting one point behind the Maple Leafs with a game in hand, the Islanders can jump into playoff position with a point Thursday night, along with a Leafs loss in regulation against the Kings and a Panthers loss of any kind to the Flyers. To add to the drama, Joshua Ho-Sang makes his long awaited NHL debut, as interim head coach Doug Weight made it official following the team's optional morning skate.
Ho-Sang, the mercurial 21-year-old from Toronto, has been tearing up the AHL with Bridgeport, with 10-26-36 in 48 games leading to his recall, and was just named AHL rookie of the month for February, accumulating 15 points in 12 games for the month to go with a +9 rating. He will skate on a line centered by struggling Brock Nelson and Andrew Ladd, who has collected four goals in his last six games.
Is Ho-Sang the jolt of energy needed to push the Islanders through this stretch? Can he revive Nelson's game, which for the third straight season, has hit the skids in the second half (no goals in the last 10 games, four assists)? With Ryan Strome being held scoreless in six of his last seven games and no more help seemingly on the way, he might have to be. For as dominant the Islanders first line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee has been, it's fairly easy to stop a team that is getting no other complementary scoring.
"It's a simple game, you get your feet wet and just start running with it," Ho-Sang told the Islanders' official site. "For me, I just want to contribute any way I can. The team is in a huge playoff push right now, and I want to help them get there. Play my role, and do what Dougie (Weight) asks."
The stretch run is here. And the Islanders are very much alive in the chase for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. With Cal Clutterbuck and Shane Prince returning to the lineup tonight as well, in addition to Ho-Sang, they are hoping that is all the boost they need to get invited to the dance.
What Snow did or didn't do can be beaten into the ground, if you wish. He can be chastised for the past on a number of issues, sure. But whether New York receives their invitation or not will ultimately depend on who it always has at the end of the day -- themselves. With what we have seen out of this team over the course of the past 19 games under Weight (12-5-2), they are good enough to get there on talent. Will the effort and execution match?
If it doesn't, another long summer of reflection awaits.