The New York Islanders need to defeat the teams they’re expected to defeat if they hope to return to the playoffs this season.

The Islanders will get another opportunity on Saturday afternoon when they visit the Montreal Canadiens, who sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings.

New York missed a chance to move into a wild-card spot on Thursday night when it squandered a two-goal lead late in the second period against the visiting Vancouver Canucks. The Islanders lost 6-5 to end a four-game winning streak.

“When you’re up 4-2 in a hockey game late in the second period, and you don’t win the hockey game, you feel like you’ve let something slip away,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “I saw a lot of mistakes being made, a lot of individual turnovers.”

Like the Canadiens, the Canucks are well under .500 and seemed to raise the white flag when they traded Bo Horvat to the Islanders on Jan. 30 in a deal that included New York’s 2023 first-round draft pick.

On the positive side, Horvat scored for the second straight game and Brock Nelson extended his point streak to nine games (five goals, five assists) for New York.

The Islanders need to get back to performing tighter as a unit and leaving smaller gaps, defenseman Noah Dobson said.

“You watch the last couple games before (Thursday) night, you see five guys in the picture when we’re breaking pucks out. We’re helping each other out,” Dobson said. “Just finding at times we’ve been getting disconnected.”

The Canadiens lost four in a row heading into the All-Star break. They’re still trying to get some key players back to full strength.

Sean Monahan hasn’t played since Dec. 5 after a nagging foot injury finally sidelined him.

Monahan, who scored at least 22 goals in each of his first seven seasons in the NHL, initially was listed as day-to-day before the Canadiens announced he would be out two-to-three weeks.

He began skating again in early January, briefly joined his teammates for practice during the middle of last month and then wore a non-contact jersey on Jan. 21.

Monahan wasn’t seen again until he was on the ice before practice on Thursday, but a timetable for his return still has not been established.

Monahan was joined on the ice Thursday by defenseman Joel Edmundson, who has been out since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 26. There’s no timetable set for Edmundson’s return either.

Montreal right wing Joel Armia also was absent from the main portion of practice on Thursday because of an upper-body injury.

Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin returned to practice on Thursday. He’s been sidelined since Jan. 15 with an upper-body injury, but Montreal coach Martin St. Louis did not commit to playing him against the Islanders either.

Rafael Harvey-Pinard remained on the top line with captain Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson on Thursday. He joined the duo in Montreal’s most recent game and scored two goals in 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 31, and scored two goals.

“We played pretty well in the half game we played and I’m excited to get this chance,” Harvey-Pinard said.

–Field Level Media