Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The New York Islanders returned from their league-mandated bye week and captured their second consecutive win, this one in convincing fashion, trouncing the rival New York Rangers, 7-2 at Madison Square Garden.
It's the type of game that, even though the defensive effort wasn't perfect (39 shots against on 78 attempts), could springboard the team to a much-needed strong second half in the hotly contested Metropolitan Division.
It did not come without a price, however. Already without the services of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan, as well as forwards Andrew Ladd, all-star Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin, they suffered yet another potentially crushing injury blow when center Casey Cizikas got tied up with Pavel Buchnevich and suffered what is thought to be a broken finger or hand which could sideline him for a while.
The extent of the injury to one of the Islanders best defensive forwards will not be known until he is further evaluated tomorrow, but head coach Doug Weight did not sound optimistic.
"It's getting worse," Weight said. "It's not great. You always find out after you get some good looks at it, but he won't be playing for a little while at least and we'll hope for good news come Monday when we get some real good looks at it. He won't be on the trip (to Montreal) for sure. We're going to have to find a way. Six or seven big names, and key pieces of our team, but that's why you have depth. We're going to have to rely on that for sure moving forward here."
MIchael Dal Colle, who had an unspectacular, but solid debut, and Anthony Beauvillier, seemingly reinvigorated after his recent brief demotion to Bridgeport, are going to be counted on tremendously moving forward as the Islanders struggle to patch together a lineup that is going to have to overachieve to keep up with a wild card race getting crazier by the day. Currently, five teams (all from the Metro division) are a single point apart. That's not to mention getting improved contributions on a more consistent basis from the likes of Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
"I was impressed with our lineup all the way through", Weight continued. "From Shane (Prince) and Brock, who has played his best ten days of hockey since last year. It's been visible to me, not on the scoresheet, but just in the way he's playing the game. I thought Michael (Dal Colle) was excellent today, very stable, moved well and thought he played a really good game, had a big hand in this win. If we can keep challenging these guys, keep our hands on their throats, keep them going the right way, we'll be OK."
Beauvillier, placed on a line with Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal, a trio that combined for 12 points yesterday, was extremely impressive, handling his demotion to Bridgeport with professionalism not often seen in a player of his age. And, if we use yesterday as an example, he doesn't plan on returning to Connecticut anytime soon.
"Just moving my feet, wanting the puck, finding my identity," Beauvillier said. "Found a way I can have success and get some confidence back. It's never fun to go down after spending so much time up here, don't want to go back, so I'll continue to work hard and give my best here. It's not easy to hear, but not easy for them to say, either. It happened to Strome, happened to Bailey. It just goes with the game, sometimes, when you're a young player. Hopefully, I can look back in a couple of years and consider it just a small bump in the road."
If there is one thing the Islanders cannot do, at this point, is get ahead of themselves after victories over the Devils and Rangers. Sure, it feels good for now, but as Jordan Eberle noted yesterday, once the final horn sounds, it's quickly onto the next one.
"The biggest thing you learn in this league is one game doesn't make a season," he said. "You have to compete and do that every, single night. You look at the standings and see how tight it is in our division and you can't give up these points. You need to win games, especially against teams above you. We need to start rolling here. We need to figure it out consistently."