TORONTO - While Jack Capuano's team enjoyed a day off here Sunday, prepping for back-to-back games the next two days, the Islanders' next opponent continued to spiral downward.
When talented young center Nazem Kadri was late Sunday morning, Maple Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek sent him home from the team's practice facility before a vigorous skate that followed a 6-1 home loss to the Blues on Saturday night, just the latest version of rock bottom for one of the NHL's signature franchises. The Leafs are 5-21-2 since Jan. 1.
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But nothing is a given, even with an Islanders team going up and a Leafs team going down. The Islanders will have a quick turnaround to host the Rangers Tuesday night, turning the game here into an even bigger potential trap.See alsoLatest NHL playoff picture
"The games this time of year are tight, no matter who you play," John Tavares said.
The Islanders are coming in at the right time. After making three difficult stops on this four-game road swing -- earning one point in an overtime loss in Dallas and another point in a shootout loss in Florida sandwiched around a one-goal win in Nashville -- things might seem a little easier for the Isles on Monday night in Toronto.
Even though they haven't produced smooth 60-minute (or 65-minute) performances this past week, the Islanders feel good about what they've been able to do.
"I've liked our effort," said Capuano, whose team will reach the 68-game mark Monday night before any other in the league. "We've played a lot of hockey the past couple months."
Tavares sat alone atop the NHL scoring leaders after Saturday night's three-point game. The captain, a Toronto native, has led the way since the All-Star break, when Kyle Okposo was sidelined because of eye surgery.
The Islanders are 11-7-3 since Okposo went out. Tavares has 11 goals and 14 assists in those 21 games, Hart Trophy-type numbers. He also rarely has a bad game in his hometown, with five goals and 10 assists in 10 career games at Air Canada Centre.
Notes & quotes: With the Rangers looming at the Coliseum Tuesday night, Capuano might go right back to Michal Neuvirth on Monday night and save Jaroslav Halak for the huge Metropolitan Division clash. Neuvirth faced only 18 shots in Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss and admitted the lack of pucks made it tough to stay focused in his Isles debut.