ELMONT, NY — We are just a few hours before the puck drops for a heated matchup between the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres.
The Islanders, after practicing on Monday, did not skate Tuesday morning, as head coach Lane Lambert addressed the media to provide updates on his club.
His team is gearing up for their most critical matchup to date, given the current standings situation and wild-card race.
“We know what our situation is. They know what their situation is. So, it’s a good thing at this time of the year to be playing these meaningful games,” Lambert said. “So we need a good start.”
The biggest question mark heading into the game was whether or not forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau would return to the lineup after a nine-game absence.
Per Lambert, he is still day-to-day, and they have not yet decided if he will travel to Pittsburgh for Thursday’s game against the Penguins.
Pageau did practice ice Monday. He cycled in with Simon Holmstrom and Josh Bailey, with Otto Koivula getting rushes. But he will miss his 10th straight game Tuesday.
That means Koivula will remain in the lineup for a sixth-straight game. The third-year fringe NHLer has one assist in an average of 7:45 minutes per game.
Despite the lack of results, Lambert has been content with the 24-year-old’s play.
“I think he’s more confident, at least, him being more aggressive, just in his decisions,” Lambert said. “And, I think that he’s done a good job of working on foot speed. So I have liked his game from that standpoint.”
As for where that confidence has come from:
“It’s not his first rodeo so to speak. He’s been doing it for a while and it’s just a mindset,” Lambert said. “I think what he’s done right from the start of training camp, he’s come in with a real good mindset, real positive mindset.”