NHL Hockey

Islanders visit streaky Blue Jackets in key Metro battle

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has spoken often about how his team will face opponents either desperate to get into a playoff spot or to solidify their postseason standing, and Thursday's visit to the Columbus Blue Jackets is a perfect example.

Both teams were off Wednesday after playing Tuesday, when the Islanders' three-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss at Buffalo and the Blue Jackets ran their winning streak to four games by blanking the visiting Washington Capitals, 3-0.

The Tuesday results tightened up the Metropolitan Division race and applied pressure to the Islanders (33-17-6), who have surged into first place by going 19-5-2 since Dec. 15. Despite the sustained hot streak, New York is just three points ahead of the second-place Capitals and five points ahead of the third-place Blue Jackets (32-20-3).

"We've got a good opportunity to nip it in the bud and get a win on Thursday against a Columbus team that's not too far behind us," Islanders left winger Matt Martin said Tuesday night.

The Islanders will likely have their hands full with the Blue Jackets, who have beaten both of last year's Stanley Cup finalists in consecutive games. Columbus, which capped a perfect three-game road trip by beating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 on Saturday night, allowed just seven shots in the first two periods Tuesday before goalie Sergei Bobrovsky recorded 13 third-period saves to preserve the shutout.

As well as the Blue Jackets have played lately, head coach John Tortorella is not ready to declare that his famously inconsistent club has turned a corner. Over Columbus' last 13 games, it has authored two four-game winning streaks (the first from Jan. 10-15) and a five-game losing streak from Jan. 18 to Feb. 2.

In addition, the defensive tenacity the Blue Jackets displayed Tuesday has been fleeting over the last several weeks. The shutout of the Capitals marked just the fifth time Columbus has held an opponent to fewer than three goals in 19 games since the NHL's Christmas break.

In comparison, the Blue Jackets limited the opposition to fewer than three goals 14 times in the season's first 36 games.

"You don't find your consistency in one game," Tortorella said Tuesday night. "It has to be who you are. Now we've put a couple of them together, hopefully we'll continue and then maybe we can talk about who we are, as far as that part of the game."

A pair of No. 1 goalies are likely to oppose each other Thursday night.

Bobrovsky should be in net again for the Blue Jackets after recording his third shutout of the season Tuesday. The Islanders' Robin Lehner suffered the tough-luck loss Tuesday, when he stopped 19 of 22 shots in Buffalo.

Bobrovsky is 15-6-0 in 22 career regular-season appearances against the Islanders. Lehner is 5-3-0 in eight games against the Blue Jackets.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 13, 2019

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