The Islanders are finally getting some time at home this season.
After playing 12 of their first 17 games of the 2021 campaign on the road, the Islanders will embark on a 10-game stretch that will feature nine home games at the Nassau Coliseum — including four straight starting Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET).
“It’ll be nice to get home,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said. “We’ve played a lot of road games, so it’ll be nice to get back home and get some games going there.
Despite their marauding, travel-heavy early schedule, the Islanders are just three points behind the first-place Boston Bruins in the Eastern Division with a prime opportunity to feed off the continuity of an extended run at home to make a stronger push toward the top of the standings.
“Everybody likes to be at home,” forward Brock Nelson added. “It’s a little different environment [this year], but when you’re more familiar with the rules and regulations the way they are this year, and with the homestand ahead of us, we want to go home, recharge, and take advantage of it.”
Both Eberle and Nelson are back to their usual lines after head coach Barry Trotz restored the top-six back to its familiar form.
Anthony Beauvillier’s return from a lower-body injury and the ability to take on more minutes prompted Trotz to put the 23-year-old back on the second line with Nelson and Josh Bailey.
Eberle — normally a first-liner who swapped right-wing spots with the second-line Bailey during Beauvillier’s absence — got back to the top trio alongside Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.
Both Nelson and Eberle scored in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh to the Penguins.
“We’ve played so much together that when you go back to it, I kind of know what to expect,” Eberle said of his return to the first line. “[Barzal] is a unique player where you have to play with him for a little bit to understand what he’s thinking a little bit. I’ve done that.”
While Eberle netted his team-leading seventh goal of the season, Nelson’s fifth tally of the season was his first even-strength goal of the campaign, giving the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the third period before Pittsburgh punched back with goals from Mike Matheson and Kris Letang to steal two points.
The Islanders outshot Pittsburgh 35-18 in the loss with a whopping 53 hits.
“Life’s not fair sometimes, you know? If you just stick to the process, you’ll get those results,” Trotz said. “If we continue to play that way, then we’ll have success. You’re not always going to get the result that you want even if you put in a pretty good effort… We just have to be resilient… You have to understand how you’re going to have to have results.”