EAST MEADOW — Bo Horvat’s Islanders career began as expected working alongside Mathew Barzal, scoring three goals in his first seven games after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks.
But there’s no script in hockey, and Barzal went down on Feb. 18 with a lower-body injury that still has kept him out of the lineup — and the goals proceeded to dry up for Horvat.
The star center, with 36 goals on the season, has scored just twice in the 15 games without Barzal entering Monday night’s clash against the New Jersey Devils. That included an 11-game stretch without a goal.
“We were clicking and things were going really well, but other guys have stepped up and we haven’t needed me to score to win a lot of the games which has been great,” Horvat said on Monday. “That’s what we need in order to be successful. It’s what we’re going to need to make the playoffs, but I definitely have another level to my game where I can be a lot better this season.”
As of Monday morning, the Islanders held the No. 1 Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference by a point over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning nine of the first 15 games without Barzal and with Horvat struggling to find consistent scoring.
“They were all going in at the beginning of the year. They’re not going in right now,” Horvat said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before one finds its way to the back of the net and it’s going to take one to go off my shin pad or butt or whatever. So I’m not worried about that way as long as we win hockey games.”
Monday morning saw head coach Lane Lambert shuffle up his lines in an attempt to spark the 27-year-old, placing Horvat with Zach Parise and Hudson Fasching while moving Anders Lee and Simon Holmstrom down to work with Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Fasching and Parise pointed toward a simple game — “north, south” as Fasching labeled it — to help get Horvat back on track.
“We’re just looking for a spark,” Lambert said of the switch.
“I think it’s going to be a good change,” Horvat said. “I had success early and things kind of dwindled away a little bit. So just changing it up and throwing something new at our opponent will hopefully spark something… I think they both work really hard and they make plays. They get on the forecheck and the point really well so I’m looking forward to playing with them tonight. I know I have to be better and start pulling my weight around here.”
For more on the Islanders and Bo Horvat, visit AMNY.com