The Islanders returned to practice Monday, and before getting down to business, coach Jack Capuano engaged in some pleasantries about All-Star Weekend, captain John Tavares’ victory in the accuracy shooting contest and, of course, the feel-good story of MVP John Scott.
Scott served as a segue in the real matter at hand: the Islanders’ heavy game schedule and the need to begin the nominal second half with a clear objective.
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“Hard work and a lot of determination,’’ Capuano said of Scott. That’s what he wants from his players.
“We had a good meeting before we left,’’ Capuano said. “There’s got to be an accountability factor amongst the guys. It’s going to come from the coaches on who we put in the lineup, but if we’re going to have any success at all and we want to make a run at this, those guys have to hold each other accountable. Great teams have accountability amongst themselves.
“There’s a lot of friendships — I get it — but you got to be able to call one another out and expect the job that you want to go in the foxhole with one of your teammates. And that’s what it’s going to take if you want to get to the dance or get where you want to be.’’
It all starts, of course, with Tavares.
“Maybe he’ll save a few of those shots for the games that we got coming up,’’ Capuano said slightly tongue-in-cheek of his All-Star performance.
Tavares said of the weekend: “Obviously, everyone enjoyed it, including us as players. It was a lot of fun, good break, get some rest and now it’s time to move forward. We got to be ready to play, understand how crucial each point is. You see how tight the standings are. There’s no easing back into things. We have to get off to a good start starting [Tuesday night].’’
The Islanders will host the Wild, then play the first-place Capitals on Thursday before facing the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday. The Oilers are at Barclays on Sunday.
With a 15-point lead over the second-place Rangers, the Capitals would have to collapse to not finish first in the Metropolitan Division. The third-place Islanders have 56 points, with the Penguins (55), Devils (55) and Hurricanes (54) right in the mix.
The Islanders have 35 games left. A makeup date for the snowed-out game in Brooklyn against the Flyers has yet to be announced.
“Hopefully, guys took care of themselves during the break,’’ Capuano said. “We’ll see how [Tuesday] goes. We have a really big stretch coming up this month. As I told the guys this morning, we got to play our best hockey. The lineup is going to change. We need rested bodies in there.’’
Notes & quotes: JF Berube (conditioning) and Scott Mayfield were recalled from Bridgeport. Mayfield is seen as insurance for Johnny Boychuk (upper body), who could return shortly. Capuano said he would consult with the trainers.