Islanders take on rested Kings after tense loss
The New York Islanders returned to action Friday and played the type of game they can expect to experience on a regular basis if they reach the playoffs.
For the Los Angeles Kings, any chance of laying the foundation for a postseason run will involve playing as well against the Islanders on Saturday as they have against other contenders in the past several weeks.
The Kings will return from the NHL All-Star break and their subsequent bye week Saturday night, when they visit the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
The Kings last played Jan. 21, when they edged the host St. Louis Blues, 4-3. The Islanders resumed play Friday, when they fell to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, 1-0, in a shootout. It was the first 1-0 overtime or shootout loss for New York since an overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 14, 2013.
The defensive duel Friday night between the Eastern Conference's two division leaders lent a postseason air to a game played on the first night of February. Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss and Lightning net-minder Andrei Vasilevskiy combined to stop all 77 shots they faced in regulation and overtime.
"Little bit of a playoff-feel type of game," Islanders center and captain Anders Lee said afterward. "You've got the number one team in the league coming into your building, you rise to the occasion."
The Kings will look to do the same as the decided underdogs Saturday night. While the Islanders continue to lead the Metropolitan Division, Los Angeles resumes play with the fewest points in the Western Conference and the second-fewest in the NHL.
Still, the Kings have played better of late -- they are 9-6-1 dating to Dec. 18, a span in which they earned six wins against teams currently occupying a playoff spot. They are hopeful the extended break will refresh them before starting the long-shot pursuit of a playoff berth.
"It's 11 days," Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said following the win over the Blues. "We could have lost 10 in a row, won 10 in a row. It's a fresh start when we get back from it."
Quick is likely to oppose the Islanders' Robin Lehner in a battle of No. 1 goalies.
Quick earned the win against the Blues by making 33 saves. It was the 302nd win for Quick, who moved into sole possession of fourth place among American-born goaltenders. He was previously tied with Mike Richter.
Lehner hasn't played since the Islanders' final game before the All-Star break on Jan. 22, when he took the loss after recording 38 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 27-year-old goalie was named the NHL's second star of the month in January, when he went 6-1-1 while allowing just 1.73 goals per game.
Quick is 5-2-2 in nine career appearances against the Islanders. Lehner is 2-5-0 in seven games against the Kings.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 2, 2019