The Islanders are 5-0-1 in their last six games, and although most observers would agree it is too little, too late, at least the alternative scenario for a team out of the playoffs seems to have been avoided.
"Certainly, packing it in wasn't an option," Josh Bailey said. "We weren't going to let that happen, [Jack Capuano] wasn't a coach to let it happen. We're proud of the way we're working down the stretch. We've still got six games. We want to finish the same way things have been going lately."
Bailey, at long last, has played a role as the team looks to finish on a positive note. He has five points in his last three games. That has not rescued his disappointing season (eight goals, 25 assists), but at least he's attempting to justify the five-year, $16.5-million extension he was given last July.
"Lately it's been pretty good," he said. "It's always nice to get some results in the scoresheet. I think as a team, everyone's been collectively playing better, playing hard. It can be difficult when you look at the standings. It's frustrating. But I think everyone's done a good job of staying motivated and working hard."
Capuano said of Bailey, "I think he's been pretty effective on the power play. Obviously, five-on-fives he's getting better. Again, it's just consistency with him and it's a matter of him continuing to work hard, and if he does that, he'll have success."
Bailey said he is mindful of what injured captain John Tavares said at a charity event Wednesday: The team "can't be fooled with the way we finish here because of the way the rest of the season went."
Bailey agreed, saying, "Obviously he's right when he says that. I think none of us are happy about it. But it's the position we've got ourselves in. Really, the only option is to keep moving forward and keep working.''
Notes & quotes: Michael Grabner (concussion) participated in an hourlong practice, and Capuano hinted he could be available for Saturday's home game against the Capitals. "We'll check with the trainers and doctors and see if he's available to go," he said.