Isles Files

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Islanders need to start winning Wednesday vs. Rangers to have chance at playoffs

The New York Islanders practiced Tuesday at Yankee Stadium for their Wednesday night game against the Rangers, part of the NHL's Stadium Series. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Jan. 28, 2014)

The Islanders definitely took in all the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday’s Stadium Series game during their Tuesday practice and family skate.

A few guys asking which Yankees had which lockers -- for the record, massage therapist Jim Miccio had the place of honor, assigned Derek Jeter’s stall -- and marveling at the surroundings.

Well, maybe not all of them marveled -- Bostonian and Red Sox fan Brian Strait smiled when I asked if he’d defaced any of the Yankee logos. But Tuesday was an enjoyable day for the players and their families. Lots of parents, lots of wives and girlfriends, a handful of children -- Emily and Andrei Nabokov, unsurprisingly, stole the show by stepping in front of their dad to answer some media questions.

But now, as Jack Capuano said, it’s all business. The Islanders need two points Wednesday against the Rangers. They need two on Friday, two more on Tuesday in Washington. They went through a gauntlet the past few games and came away battered and beaten, blowing two-goal leads to the Penguins and Blues and unable to play more than 25 good minutes against the Bruins.

So the Islanders, quite simply, need to run the table these next five games to be serious about a post-Olympic break playoff run. If they’re not at .500 by the time they leave the ice on Feb. 8 against the Avalanche, I don’t see how they can revive themselves with only 22 games left and likely seven to nine points to make up, with half a dozen teams to jump.

They won’t be mathematically eliminated, of course. But losing tonight, on the big stage in front of a national audience and 45,000 to 50,000 fans will sting far, far more than a win will feel good.

And these next five games may determine what happens with Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald. I can tell you Garth Snow is fielding calls on both players; the Vanek situation has far more to do with what Vanek wants to do than where the Islanders are. The decision on that seems to be forthcoming.

As for MacDonald, there seems to be a very high level of interest in him around the league. With no contract talks between Snow and MacDonald’s camp, if the Islanders falter the next five games, I’d think he’ll be moved. That may happen regardless.

As far as the details for tonight, Capuano won’t be revealing his lineup until 5:30 p.m., but here’s what you can surmise: Nabokov will be in goal; Matt Donovan will take Matt Carkner’s spot on defense and the forward lines will stay the same as Monday.

Travis Hamonic going on IR is obviously a step back, since he didn’t feel great a day after his first hard on-ice work. But he was at the Stadium on Tuesday to watch his teammates practice. Concussions are always worrisome, as I’ve noted here often; the symptoms change daily and everything must be taken into account before a step forward can be taken.

It’s not a crazy leap to think Hamonic won’t be back until after the Olympic break; if he’d practiced yesterday, he might have actually played tonight, so assuming another 10 days out could be a stretch, but these things are very tricky.

Hamonic’s situation could have an effect on MacDonald’s, but I would imagine if Snow gets a tempting offer for MacDonald, he’d move the player regardless.

Tags: Islanders , Stadium Series , Rangers , Yankee Stadium

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