The New York Islanders enter February in the 13th position in the Eastern Conference, 10 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the eighth and final playoff berth. It won’t be an easy task for the Isles to claw their way back into serious playoff contention, but the stellar play of the trio of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau has given the New York faithful some optimism. The three forwards are all among the NHL’s top 25 point scorers, with Tavares an impressive fourth in the league.
The next few weeks will be a test of the team’s mettle. With the trade deadline approaching on February 27, the way the Isles fare over the upcoming 14 games will determine whether they can claw their way back into playoff contention or will stage a fire sale at the deadline.
The schedule will not be easy for the struggling team, nine of their 14 games in February are against teams currently in playoff position, including three games against the surprising Ottawa Senators and matchups against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
If the Isles do fall completely out of contention over the next few weeks, multiple players could be on the trading block, including goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and veterans Mark Streit, Brian Rolston and Mark Eaton.
While a brutal February is about to get underway, General Manager Garth Snow, speaking about the current state of the team, didn’t sound like a man who was prepared to give up on the season, telling NHL.com:
“We’ve been in this rebuild for the last five years, and I think now our fans are getting to see what our team can do.”
It will certainly be an interesting month on Long Island, with fans on the lookout for Tavares to carry the team back to contention or Snow to wave the white flag and begin unloading players to teams with postseason aspirations.