NEW YORK — The New York Islanders solved their biggest long-term issue Wednesday, when owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin won a bid to build a new arena at Belmont Park in Nassau County. But the Islanders will have decidedly short-term goals in mind Thursday night when they host the Anaheim Ducks in a battle of reeling teams at Barclays Center.
Both the Islanders and Ducks were off Wednesday after absorbing losses on Tuesday. New York fell to the visiting Detroit Red Wings, 6-3. Anaheim suffered its third straight defeat by dropping a 4-1 decision to the New York Rangers.
The results Tuesday removed the last margin of error for the Islanders (18-13-3) in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New York, which began the month one point out of first place in the Metropolitan Division, has gone 3-6-1 in December to fall into the second wild card, where it will open Thursday two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The issue for the Islanders has been a sieve-like defense. New York entered Wednesday ranks second in the NHL in both goals scored (121) and goals allowed (120). Goalies Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak have combined to stop just 87.1 percent of shots they’ve faced this month.
“They’re going through a rough time now,” Islanders head coach Doug Weight said. “It gets in your head and you feel like you can’t give anything up.”
The game Thursday will be the first for the Islanders as official lame ducks at Barclays Center. The club, which is in its third season in Brooklyn following 42 seasons at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, plans to move back to the Island in an arena that could be ready for the 2020-21 season. Fans, tired of the treacherous commute to Brooklyn, universally lauded the move.
“For our fans, this day is for you,” Ledecky said during a press conference Wednesday. “You’ve been passionate supporters of the team both on and off the ice. Today is a huge day for the franchise and you deserve it more than anyone else.”
The Ducks (14-13-8) are also in the midst of a 10-game slide (3-3-4). Anaheim is 1-2-1 on a six-game east coast road trip that ends Saturday against the Penguins.
The loss to the Rangers on Tuesday was the first one this month in which the Ducks fell by more than two goals. Anaheim, which is two points behind the third-place San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, has suffered four of its last seven losses in overtime.
“I hate to say it, but I think we are finding ways to lose hockey games at the moment,” Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. “You have to find ways to win games.”
While the Ducks’ defensive woes are not as pronounced as the Islanders, Anaheim has been outscored 9-4 in the last two games.
“We have to dig in, buckle down defensively and win one of these games 1-0, something like that,” Getzlaf said. “We have to give our goaltenders more help than that.”