Tuesday night begins a four-game road trip for the Islanders. Except for forward Thomas Vanek, who has been away from home since the Oct. 27 trade that brought him to Long Island after nine seasons with Buffalo.
His wife and three sons remain upstate for now, with Vanek in a Long Island hotel, house-hunting in the little spare time he has, and feeling he is on his own personal road trip.
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"Sure it does," he said. "But the guys have been great and the organization has been very helpful, so it makes the transition easy."
It is an old theory in sports that teammates get to know each other better when traveling together, and Vanek will spend the next four games visiting Washington, Carolina, Columbus and Montreal with his new colleagues.
"I'm sure, whenever you go on the road, there's a lot of bonding, dinner and hanging out with one another," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "He's away from his family either way, even when he's on Long Island, but it's a good time, after a couple of days, to be with the guys quite a bit. I'm sure the guys have played some jokes on him" as an early sign of acceptance.
"That's a regular locker-room environment," team captain John Tavares said, "to take some heat sometimes. It's what the camaraderie of team sports is. So I think he's already been part of that. You just want to try to make him feel part of the team."
Meanwhile, Vanek's first goal as an Islander Saturday night put him in familiar surroundings -- he averaged 29 goals during eight full NHL seasons -- and, beyond hockey business as usual, fitting in "is actually very easy," Vanek said. "The guys here are very close. Guys get along, they care for each other. And you can see in the games, they play hard for each other."
And they can needle the new guy now. But "after couple of days," Vanek said, "and you know everyone, you can get back at them."
Notes & quotes: Though functioning with the bare minimum of six defensemen, because neither Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) nor Brian Strait (upper body injury) have resumed skating, Capuano said, "I don't foresee right now" calling up reinforcements from AHL Bridgeport . . . Center Peter Regin missed practice Monday to have dental work but Capuano said he is comfortable will using rookie Brock Nelson on a line with Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck.