Jack Capuano does not need to motivate John Tavares, but it never hurts to remind the team's best player of his importance. So, when Capuano was asked if the captain is feeling pressure in the playoff drive, the coach said he ought to be.
"I think as a captain you need to put some pressure on yourself," Capuano said Wednesday. "If you want to be a leader -- that's what these big time players get paid to do -- not only do they pull together and put up the offensive numbers, but more importantly what they do is they lead their team and that's what Johnny does . . . [No.] 91 is the guy for us. I'm sure he does put a little bit of pressure on himself. I'm sure he does feel it at times, too. So, because he went through a stretch where maybe he wasn't playing his best hockey for a few games at home he realizes that and he picks his game right back up."
Latest Islanders stories
Tavares had three assists in a 5-4 victory over the Red Wings Sunday. The Islanders had lost seven of eight. Tavares ended March with four goals and five assists. The Islanders have five games remaining in the regular season starting Thursday night in Columbus when they play the Blue Jackets, who are eliminated from the playoffs but have won seven straight games.
Told of Capuano's remarks, Tavares said, "Being the captain, you want to set the example the right way and try to do those things. I think there's been that expectation and things like that ever since I've gotten here. With the captaincy, I don't think I try to add any extra pressure. I think I've always prided myself on my game and tried to reach another level . . . The pressure and expectation for myself and our team is what I'm most concerned with. I know what I have to do to be ready to play and to set the example."
The Islanders haven't clinched a playoff berth yet, but are determined to finish strong and earn home ice in the first round, which at this point would be against the Penguins.
"It's obviously important," Anders Lee said of home ice. "It was a goal at the beginning of the year. We were in position to do that so we want to continue to fight for that and it is important, come a Game 7, you want to be on your home ice and have your crowd behind you."
Tavares added, "The less and less games we have, the closer and closer we're getting," to the playoffs. "I think we still believe we're in pretty good position and we're fighting in the standings for positioning for home ice as well. I think any time you're in that home ice discussion I think that puts you in a pretty good spot."
Notes & quotes:Frans Nielsen left the ice during practice. He has been coping with a lower body injury. Capuano said his status against Columbus was unknown. Capuano said he had a talk with Kyle Okposo, who has just three points since returning from eye surgery. "I think he's probably a little frustrated in his game and where's he at. I had a good talk with him. For me, he just has to continue with the process . . . He knows that he wants to play better and to me it's just making sure that mentally he's in the right spot. We have confidence he's going to get back to where he was."