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Islanders at Blues preview: No Tavares? No problem

Barry Trotz has the Islanders on the right path despite losing their superstar.

NHL: New York Islanders at St. Louis Blues Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Last off-season was a whirlwind for Islanders fans. Their franchise center, John Tavares, left in free agency to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Losing a superstar for nothing dampened the enthusiasm the fanbase felt for Rookie of the Year Mathew Barzal, who had scored 22 goals and added 63 assists (!) for them the year prior.

The addition of Barry Trotz as coach was a silver lining, and one that fans should be feeling pretty good about now. Barzal’s off to the All-Star Game in San Jose, and has six goals in his last eight games. The Islanders are 22-13-4 as of right now, good enough for being one point out of a playoff spot in the East (and third in the crowded Metro). Factor in that the Islanders have turned Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner into a solid 1A/1B tandem, and there shouldn’t be too much room to be upset anymore if you’re an Isles fan.

Ok, unless you’re not happy about the never-ending saga of where they’re going to play hockey. That’s certainly something to be unhappy about.

If you’re a Blues fan, well, at least you have their surprisingly dominant 5-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to build on. Welcome back, Carl Gunnarsson. And tonight, welcome back to Vladimir Tarasenko, who has been missing with an illness. He has seven goals in his last 10 games against the Isles, so this is the perfect game for him to return for.

Interestingly, both Pat Maroon and Joel Edmundson are healthy scratches tonight. It sounds like it’s just time off for both players to take a step back, watch from the press box, and center themselves. Here’s hoping that it sticks.