Isles Must Bounce Back in Columbus

Now is the time to find out what these New York Islanders are all about.

In a year that has exceeded expectations (remember all those preseason predictions about the team taking a step back and being a cellar dweller?), the Islanders had a setback Tuesday night with a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

Despite putting on late pressure, the visitors were held in check by Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark and were unable to find an equalizer in the latter stages of the game.

How this team performs on Thursday night in Columbus against a good Blue Jackets team will tell plenty about what the ceiling is for these Islanders.

Despite the loss, the stats from Tuesday night’s contest show that the Islanders did have their bright moments. They outshot the Sabres (25 to 22) and had a significant edge in hits (20 to 13). This is a game where the Islanders could have at least grabbed a point and added on to their lead atop the Metropolitan Division.

Emerging from KeyBank Center empty-handed stings.

“For me, we didn’t play our game, I give some credit to Buffalo,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the game.

“But at the same time, we tried to play an East-West, fancy type of the game. In the first two periods, we didn’t have anyone at the net and we’re looking for that extra play. When we’re at our best, we’re going to work hard on the puck, we’re at the net. We’re moving it low to high, we’re winning our battles. We didn’t do any of that.”

Barry Trotz holds his post-game press conference after the Isles' 3-1 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo.

Thursday night should be a battle, setting up for some must-see TV.

Columbus sits 7th in the Eastern Conference, but are just five points off from the first-place Islanders. The Blue Jackets also have a game in hand, making this a very important matchup in terms of playoff seeding.

A win and the Islanders can get their good vibes back. They also can create a bit of distance in a crowded Eastern Conference.

It would be easy for the Islanders to feel deflated after Tuesday’s game where they controlled long stretches. They simply weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. Thursday night’s game isn’t a must-win, but this team needs to take something away from Columbus.

The playoffs start in less than two months. Time to start playing like they are already here.

“We’re going to learn from this one, there are a couple things we can do better,” Trotz said.

“We’re going to look at the film [on Wednesday] in Columbus and make adjustments from there.”

[Watch the Isles-Blue Jackets Game Thursday at 6:30 PM on MSG+ and MSG GO.]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.