Islanders hope to strengthen wild-card hold, visit Kings

Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders will try to further solidify their wild-card position when they open a three-game road trip against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.

The Islanders entered Monday holding the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Florida Panthers, the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners.

“We have to have a one-game-at-a-time mindset and have a positive road trip,” said New York right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who returned from a 20-game absence on Saturday in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals.

The Kings figure to be the toughest hurdle on the road trip, which also includes stops at the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday and the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

The Ducks are Sharks are at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings.

The Kings are second in the Pacific, directly on the heels of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights.

Los Angeles is 5-0-1 in its past six games, its only setback being a 2-1 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday to open a seven-game homestand.

The Kings were without two key players against the Predators, and both remain questionable against the Islanders.

Defenseman Sean Durzi has missed the past two games after he sustained an upper-body injury in a collision with T.J. Oshie in a 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals on March 6.

Kevin Fiala, who leads the Kings with 68 points, did not play against the Predators after making knee-to-knee contact with Andrew Cogliano of the Colorado Avalanche in a 5-2 win on Thursday.

Durzi and Fiala are especially valuable on the power play, which is 0-for-12 in the past three games.

“It’s not necessarily a lack of personnel, you lose people and you should be able to keep it going,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Our power play fell off a little bit about five or six games ago when Kevin and Durz were still in the lineup. So, it is a lack of execution, it’s a little bit slow right now, a little more predictable. Perhaps looking for something that’s pretty or perfect, versus slugging it out.”

The Islanders have points in each of their past four road games (3-0-1) and they’re getting healthy at the right time.

Clutterbuck had four hits in 12:36 of ice time against the Capitals.

“Obviously simulating the intensity of a game is another step, but that comes quickly,” he said. “I felt better first (period) to second, second to third. Those things just find a way to come back. Luckily I’ve been able to maintain enough to be able to jump back in.”

The Kings and Islanders met just 2 1/2 weeks ago in Elmont, N.Y.

Los Angeles received goals from Phillip Danault, Arthur Kaliyev and Gabriel Vilardi in the second period and ended a two-game losing streak with a 3-2 win on Feb. 24.

Jonathan Quick made 16 saves for Los Angeles in the last of his 370 wins with the Kings.

He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets a week later for goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, and then Quick was flipped to the Golden Knights a week later, where he’s off to a 3-0-0 start with a shutout.

Korpisalo is expected to start in goal against the Islanders.

–Field Level Media

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