By going 10-5-0 in their last 15 games, the Islanders have begun the slow, arduous task of turning their losing season around. Still in the middle of that turn -- they are 10 and 12 points behind the Flyers and Rangers, their next two opponents, and seven points out of the final playoff spot -- the Islanders are done with the heavy traveling of the last two months for a spell.
With seven of the final 11 games before the Olympic break at home, plus one "home" game against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium and only road games in Manhattan (twice) and Washington, the Islanders will get a chance to sleep in their own beds for the bulk of the next three weeks, followed by a 19-day break for most of their players.
The Flyers come to Nassau Coliseum for a matinee Monday, fresh off a 6-4 win over the Islanders in Philly on Saturday night. The Islanders led 4-3 after two periods but turned in a very passive third, which included only two shots on net, as the Flyers methodically worked their way into a tie, then the lead, by outworking the Islanders' rookie defense tandem of Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan.
Those two were quite good against the Lightning and its top line of Marty St. Louis, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. They were not as good against Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl, though de Haan and Donovan were not alone in their struggles.
"We needed to be a little closer and tighter on a couple of their goals," coach Jack Capuano said. "Our young guys had a tough time. We need to learn from that."
De Haan and Donovan might get another crack at the Giroux line Monday because Capuano has few options on defense. Travis Hamonic (suspected concussion) still is out indefinitely; Lubomir Visnovsky, out for just about three months with a concussion, practiced with his teammates Sunday for the first time since his injury but wore a no-contact yellow jersey. He still is a couple of weeks from returning.
Even with those breakdowns Saturday, the Islanders had as many chances as the Flyers did. There haven't been many games the past six weeks in which the Islanders were down and out, which could give them some hope. But with a 3-11-3 record in the Metropolitan Division, hope must give way to points, starting Monday.