The Islanders want to go into their week-long All-Star break with a little momentum. Saturday’s epic snowstorm put a small dent in those plans because their game against the Flyers on Saturday night was postponed. The storm knocked out a key part of the ice-making machine at the team’s practice facility, forcing Sunday’s practice onto the half-sized IceWorks rink in Syosset rather than the big sheet.
“We had a fun little three-on-three tournament, just tried to keep it loose,” coach Jack Capuano said.
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Capuano prefers his team to play rather than have extended time off between games, so this stretch with only two games between Jan. 17 and Feb. 2 is not ideal. But he’s seeing his Islanders play the way they did during their superb stretch heading into the All-Star break a season ago, when they were 31-14-1 at the break and among the top teams in the NHL.
A couple of keys to last season’s excellence have cropped up during the 3-0-1 run that the Isles bring into Monday night’s game against the Red Wings at Barclays Center, their final game before the break.
John Tavares playing and scoring like John Tavares is the most recent development. His goal and assist in Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Senators marked Tavares’ first multi-point game in his last nine games and only his third such game in his last 27 after posting five multi-point games in his first 16 games of the season.
“Any time you work as hard as he does, it’s obviously going to be frustrating, because you want to put up points to help the team and yourself,” Capuano said of his captain. “Hopefully his luck will change. I say luck because that’s the only thing missing. He works so hard.”
The other recent development is the Islanders’ ratcheting up their play in the third period. The 2014-15 Isles were third in the NHL with 91 third-period goals, even though they were only a plus-4 in third periods after faltering late in the season in that area.
They entered Sunday’s games tied for third with 51 third-period goals and their plus-13 margin also was third in the league. Almost all of that margin was created in the past four games, with the Isles outscoring opponents 9-0 in the third period.
“We’re never trying to be a team that sits back, but I think we’ve also realized lately to make smart decisions with the puck in the third,” Capuano said. “You manage the puck well late in games, you’re going to give yourself a chance. Even in the game we lost [2-1 in a shootout to Vancouver], we were aggressive and we want to keep going that way. You get into the second half of the season, there’s a lot of one-goal games, and you have to find that balance late in games.”
Notes & quotes: The NHL has not announced a makeup date for Saturday’s postponed game. After Monday night’s game, the Islanders don’t play again until Feb. 2, when the Minnesota Wild visits Barclays Center.