The Islanders headed to Ottawa on Thursday afternoon rested, refreshed and with a couple of instructive practices under their belts during a four-day gap between games.
But is that such a good thing? They haven’t exactly come out charging in their two previous instances this season when they have come off a layoff.
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On Nov. 20, after a three-day break, the Isles gave up three first-period goals, pulled Jaroslav Halak and dropped a 5-3 decision to the Canadiens at home.
On Dec. 27, after a five-day holiday break, the Isles sleepwalked through a 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs, putting only 14 shots on goal through two periods.
“I don’t think we need to talk about it because sometimes you talk about that stuff, the worse it gets,” coach Jack Capuano said. “But I like it when we play, when we’re playing a lot of hockey, because you get in a rhythm.”
The Isles will get back to that starting Friday night, with three games in four nights before a week off for the All-Star break. And all signs point to Travis Hamonic returning to action for the start of a busy stretch.
Hamonic had another good day of practice Thursday, and Capuano sounded convinced that one of his cornerstone defensemen is ready after missing four games with a hairline fracture in his foot.
“We’ll talk with the medical staff and see how he is [Friday],’’ Capuano said, “but if he says he’s ready to go, I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t put him in.”
Capuano added that if Hamonic is ready, he likely will be paired with Calvin de Haan. Those two played together the first 15 games before they were split up to give some help to a struggling Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk pair.
Other than Hamonic stepping back in, the Islanders’ lineup will look the same as it has during the past two weeks. They bring a 2-0-1 streak into Friday night’s game and have been playing well at both ends of the ice.
The challenge Friday night is to shake off the rust, something the Islanders haven’t done with these longer layoffs.
“We had a good hard skate [Wednesday], we worked on some power play and we had a little easier skate [Thursday],’’ Capuano said. “Hopefully we come out tomorrow right out of the gate and play fast.”