Islanders' Streit grows into captain's leadership role

Islanders captain Mark Streit readies near the face-off

Islanders captain Mark Streit readies near the face-off circle against the Philadelphia Flyers. (Jan. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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He is captain of a listing ship, the no-playoffs-for-a-fifth-straight-year Islanders, but defenseman Mark Streit "wouldn't trade it," he said.

"You've got to be positive," he said. "Sometimes you've got to criticize, but at the end of the day, you've got to be supportive, be positive, cheer guys up. You know, we're all in the same boat."

Together, they have taken on plenty of water, yet with nine games to play, beginning Saturday night at Tampa Bay, the Islanders are two points from equaling last season's total of 73, and still with a chance of reaching 80 points for the first time since the last playoff season in 2006-07.

Streit Thursday cited the "huge honor" of being asked to wear the "C" at season's outset, which made him the first Swiss-born team captain in NHL history. At the time, he faced his own physical challenge after missing all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, and the expectations of living up to his 2009-10 All-Star status.

"It took me a little while to get used to it," said Streit, in his sixth NHL season at 34. "The first half of the season was a big challenge for me, coming back from a really tough injury, and I didn't play as consistent as I wanted to. I put a lot of pressure on myself, because if I play well, it's easier to talk in front of the guys, and the most important thing is to lead by example."

Streit had to "go with my gut feeling" about whether the team's poor stretches necessitated team meetings. Though most of his teammates are younger -- and some kidded Streit about "being Nino's dad"; fellow Swiss Nino Niederreiter is only 19 -- it didn't always feel that way. John Tavares, 21, "already is a leader," Streit said.

As captain, he said, "you're a little bit in between the coaching staff and the team. That was a learning experience for me, too. But you all work toward a goal and it's a long journey. It doesn't go from today till tomorrow, it doesn't take a month; it takes years. It's a process."

Notes & quotes: Tuesday's signing of goalie Evgeni Nabokov "doesn't change anything," coach Jack Capuano said. "One thing you have to realize as a coach is you never know what kind of a team you're going to have. So many things happen in the offseason. But it's a great signing. Nabby came to the organization, probably didn't know what to expect at the start, and really fit in with the guys and has played very well for us."

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