The Islanders had Sunday off to rest up and reload for the playoffs. The near-misses of the past week could be ages ago now. It's no longer time to worry about clinching scenarios or home-ice advantage; the focus is solely on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, with Game 1 looming on Wednesday in Washington.
"It doesn't matter what structure you play, what system -- you just have to be prepared to do whatever's necessary now," Jack Capuano told Newsday Sunday afternoon after spending the bulk of the day holed up in his office watching video and strategizing. "We're very fortunate with what we accomplished, but it's a new season."
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And the new season could bring some changes to the Islanders' lineup, Capuano said. The Capitals have a big, physical group of forwards, led by Ovechkin, the Great No. 8 who led the NHL with 53 goals and loves to throw his weight around.InteractiveVote: What will you miss about Nassau Coliseum?
So Capuano and his staff have to figure out whom they'll need in the lineup on Wednesday -- and who might be available.
The biggest question is the status of Travis Hamonic, who suffered an apparent left knee injury in Pittsburgh on Friday. In addition to being frequently deployed against Ovechkin's line at even strength, Hamonic had two of his five goals this season against the Capitals.
"When you look at the video of our games against Washington, the statistical analysis, No. 3 has been our best player against this team," Capuano said. "We have to see how he is moving forward."
Calvin de Haan played on Saturday after sitting the previous six games, but the Islanders will prepare for not having Hamonic at least for the early part of the week by recalling Griffin Reinhart on Monday. Reinhart played eight games with the Islanders this season and spent the rest of the year with Bridgeport.
Capuano's decisions about his forwards might be less dependent on injury. Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen should be on the ice Monday for practice; both missed the final three games of the regular season.
Mikhail Grabovski, out since Feb. 22 with a concussion, also will be on the ice.
"Some people might be surprised by who plays and who doesn't," Capuano said. "The last six periods we played this weekend were a good evaluation tool for us as a staff. Those were playoff-type games, they were physical and we saw some things that should help us decide. And things change quickly, so our lineup for Game 1 may not be our lineup going forward."
While Capuano and his coaches determine whom the Islanders will try to deploy against Ovechkin, who burned them for four goals in four games this season, the staff also will try to figure out how to get the Isles' MVP candidate, John Tavares, away from a likely constant matchup against Capitals defensemen Brooks Orpik and John Carlson.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Islanders is Washington's top-ranked power play, which converted 25.3 percent of its opportunities, the highest percentage for an 82-game season since the Red Wings were at 25.5 percent in 2008-09.
"He's been doing it at a rate like no one else in the game for years now," Tavares said of Ovechkin, who had a career-best 25 power-play goals this season, almost all from his spot on the off-wing circle. "You always have to be aware of him."
And aware of giving the Caps opportunities. The Islanders killed off 39 of their last 42 times short in the final 18 games of the season, though that remarkable run lifted their season conversion rate only to 78 percent, 26th in the league.
It's no wonder Capuano basically slept in his office after Saturday's disappointing shootout loss to the Blue Jackets. There's a lot to get done before the puck drops Wednesday.
"The one thing our guys can't do is overthink this," Capuano said. "We respect their club, but if we do the things we need to do, we give ourselves a chance. It's how we were successful all year long."