The New York Islanders went all-in by acquiring Bo Horvat more than a month before the NHL trade deadline.
Despite being in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, the Detroit Red Wings spent the deadline preparing for future seasons -- and, general manager Steve Yzerman hopes, a time when he is the one overseeing a chase for the Stanley Cup.
A pair of retooled teams are slated to begin the final stretch of the regular season Saturday afternoon, when the Islanders host the Red Wings in Elmont, N.Y.
The Islanders have been off since Tuesday night when they fell in a shootout against the host Minnesota Wild, 2-1. The Red Wings suffered their fourth straight defeat Thursday night, when they lost to the visiting Seattle Kraken, 5-4, in overtime.
The Islanders and Red Wings enter Saturday as two of the seven Eastern Conference teams within five points of a wild-card spot. But only New York -- which occupies the second wild-card slot with 70 points, one fewer than the Pittsburgh Penguins -- approached the trade deadline with an immediate playoff run in mind.
The Islanders' playoff hopes were imperiled when they lost 10 of 13 games (2-8-3) from Jan. 1-25. But New York has steadied itself by going 8-3-3 since then, including 6-3-3 since acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a conditional 2023 first-round pick.
New York scored four goals or more just five times in the 24 games prior to Horvat's arrival but has scored at least four-plus times five times in the 12 games since the deal -- despite losing centers Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau for indefinite periods of time in that stretch due to lower- and upper-body injuries, respectively.
"When all those guys went down, other guys had to step up and fill that role," Horvat told reporters Tuesday. "I'm one of those guys that wants to be a difference-maker and fill that void that's been missing. Hopefully I'm doing an OK job at it."
The Islanders made one more addition Tuesday, when they acquired left winger Pierre Engvall from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a third-round pick in 2024. Engvall, who has 12 goals this season, is expected to debut for New York on Saturday.
The Red Wings, who haven't made the playoffs since their NHL-record streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances ended in the spring of 2016, looked ready to surge into contention by winning nine of 12 games (9-3-0) from Jan. 24 through Feb. 23.
But Detroit has been outscored 20-7 over the last four games, including 15-3 in the three losses prior to Tuesday. The Red Wings received six draft picks -- including the Islanders' conditional 2023 first-rounder from the Canucks -- while trading left winger Tyler Bertuzzi, defenseman Filip Hronek, left winger Jakub Vrana and center Oskar Sundqvist since Wednesday.
Yzerman also signed Dylan Larkin, the Red Wings' leading scorer in five of the last six seasons, to an eight-year extension on Wednesday.
While the Red Wings' skid made their path to the playoffs more difficult, Yzerman -- who won three Stanley Cups with Detroit during his 22-year career -- said Friday even a more successful stretch of games prior to the deadline wouldn't have tempted him to make any win-now trades.
"I was not going to be a buyer under any circumstance," Yzerman said. "Not this year."
--Field Level Media