The New York Islanders are second in the NHL in goals scored this season, but defense continues to be the issue entering the final game before the Christmas break on Saturday at home against the Winnipeg Jets. The Islanders have allowed 124 goals and scored 123 through 35 games, and in the current 1-3-1 stretch they have surrendered 25 - including 11 in back-to-back losses to Detroit and Anaheim.
“Our starts lately have given us an uphill battle from the get-go,” New York forward Andrew Ladd told reporters after Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Anaheim, a game in which the Islanders rallied from a 3-1 deficit only to give up the game-tying tally with 1:15 left in regulation. Winnipeg sits in a logjam near the top of the Western Conference, entering Friday in a four-way tie for second place just two points behind conference leader Los Angeles. The Jets fell 2-1 in a shootout Thursday at Boston, dropping to 1-4-3 in their past eight road contests. “It was a grinder, and no fun to play, and we did a good job staying in it,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice told the media afterward.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, TSN3 (Winnipeg), MSG Plus (New York)
ABOUT THE JETS (20-10-6): Forward Patrik Laine scored his team-leading 18th goal in Thursday’s loss, as Winnipeg answered a third-period Boston tally 57 seconds later to earn a point. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers assisted on the goal and has seven points (six goals) in his past eight contests. The Jets started the weekend one ahead of Toronto for third in the league in goals scored with 118, and their goal differential (plus-19) trails just Tampa Bay and Los Angeles.
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (18-13-4): Center John Tavares scored twice with an assist Thursday, extending his points streak to six games (four goals, 10 assists) and moving within two goals of the NHL lead entering the weekend. Forward Josh Bailey is riding a seven-game streak (five goals, nine assists) and his three assists Thursday gives him a league-leading 35. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has lost four of his past five starts with a .897 save percentage in that span.
1. Maurice told reporters Friday that G Steve Mason will start Saturday after Connor Hellebuyck stopped 86-of-91 shots in the past three games.
2. Tavares and Bailey are the first Islanders to record multiple points in five consecutive games since Pierre Turgeon in 1994.
3. Winnipeg has scored on the power play in eight of its past 11 games, and Laine leads the NHL with 10 power-play goals.
PREDICTION: Jets 5, Islanders 3