Islanders, Flames clash again after standing pat
The New York Islanders and Calgary Flames are the two biggest surprises among the NHL's division leaders. They will have to finish the job with what got them here.
The Islanders and Flames meet Tuesday night for the second time in less than a week when New York hosts Calgary at Nassau Coliseum.
Both teams are coming off victories. The Islanders completed a western Canadian road swing Saturday by blanking the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0. The Flames began a three-game road trip Sunday by earning their fifth straight win with a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Calgary's streak includes a 4-2 win over New York last Wednesday.
The Islanders and Flames generally stood pat at the NHL trading deadline, even as their division rivals added pieces for the playoff push.
The Islanders, who missed the playoffs by 17 points last season and have the second-longest division title drought in the NHL (the franchise won the Patrick Division during the 1987-88 season), didn't make a trade prior to the deadline.
New York leads the Metropolitan Division by two points over the Washington Capitals, who acquired left winger Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings for two draft picks on Thursday, and by six points over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who added four players -- center Matt Duchene, center Ryan Dzingel, goalie Keith Kinkaid and defenseman Adam McQuaid -- since Friday.
Hall of Fame president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who was hired last May, said he was content with staying the course with a team whose sum has proven to be greater than its parts following the departure of captain John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs last July.
The Islanders' biggest addition was reigning Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz, whose ability to implement a defensive structure and improve the team culture has turned New York from the most porous team in the NHL into its stingiest.
"We weren't going to get into a situation where we sacrificed what our plan is, because we feel very good about this hockey team," Lamoriello said.
"In our opinion, whatever we potentially could have done would not have been the best thing. It might have looked like we were doing something, but you don't do something for the sake of doing something. So we're extremely pleased at where we are. This is a collective group that has done an outstanding job together and our focus is just to go forward with it."
Flames general manager Brad Treliving expressed similar sentiments about his Western Conference-leading club after making just one move in February -- a minor trade Monday in which Calgary sent a conditional 2020 draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Oscar Fantenberg, who has two goals and one assist while averaging 16:03 in ice time over 46 games this season.
The Flames, who missed the playoffs by 11 points last season and have reached the postseason just twice in the previous nine years, are two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division. The Sharks acquired right winger Gustav Nyquist (16 goals, 33 assists) from Detroit on Monday.
"This is a group that's in this position for the first time," Treliving said. "They're going to go into a playoff run for the first time. I'm prepared to go to battle with this group."
The Flames are looking to win their first division title since the 2005-06 season.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 25, 2019