NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks were two of the most surprising stories of the NHL through the first month of the season. But these next few weeks are likely to reveal more about the Islanders and Canucks than the first few weeks.
The Islanders and Canucks will each be looking to snap losing streaks Tuesday night, when New York hosts Vancouver at Barclays Center.
The Islanders suffered their third straight loss Saturday night, when they fell to the host Florida Panthers, 4-2. The visiting Canucks lost their second consecutive game Monday, when they dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers.
For the Islanders (8-6-2), the losing streak followed a five-game winning streak that catapulted them to the top of the Metropolitan Division. But new head coach Barry Trotz is looking at the recent struggles as an opportunity for New York -- which wasn't expected to contend for a playoff spot following the offseason departure of John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs -- to display its maturity.
"Two things happen to this team when teams go into funks," Trotz told reporters following practice Monday afternoon. "Everybody wants to play the blame game. It's the power play, it's the penalty kill, it's the coach, it's the management, whatever. The teams that come out of the other end if you let them fight through the adversity, and there's no blame someone for this or blame someone for that -- what happens is those teams always come out better on the other side. They become more resilient. They become better teams."
Like the Islanders, the Pacific Division-leading Canucks (10-7-2) are in a far better position than anyone could have envisioned after the retirements of twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin ushered in a rebuilding era. But in losing three of their last four games -- and falling each time by a goal -- Vancouver is learning the fine line between victory and defeat.
The Canucks gave up two goals in the final three minutes of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and lost Monday when the Rangers scored twice off faceoffs deep in the Vancouver zone.
"It's a tough league -- if you relax for a second, you get punished," Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom said Monday night, when he took the loss after making 25 saves. "In Buffalo, that was the case. It was a tough one. And then today, too."
Neither team announced a starting goalie for Tuesday night, though with the Canucks playing the second game of a back-to-back set, it is likely ex-Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson will draw the start in place of Markstrom, who has started eight straight games. Nilsson last played Oct. 25, when he took the loss after making 26 saves as Vancouver fell to the Arizona Coyotes, 4-1.
Robin Lehner has been in net for the Islanders' last two losses -- including Saturday, when he made 27 saves against the Panthers -- so New York could turn back to Thomas Greiss on Tuesday. Greiss hasn't played since Nov. 5, when he recorded 32 saves and took the defeat in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Nilsson is 0-3-0 in three career appearances against the Islanders. Greiss (2-2-0) and Lehner (1-2-0) have each made four appearances against the Canucks.