The Islanders roll into RBC Center tonight after playing the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference--Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Washington. 2 out of those 3 games, Gordon said, could've gone the other way.

That other one? An ugly 7-2 loss to Washington that Gordon called the "exception" to how the team has played recently.

"I want everyone to put that game behind them and move on," Gordon said.

The first step in that process will be tonight against a Carolina team that is much more potent than the previous two times the Isles have seen them this season.

"No question they are playing with a lot more confidence," Gordon said. "We played them one game when Staal was out and one game when Ward was out and we took advantage of that. Now they're playing with a roster much closer to what they expected to start with. When this team is playing well, they are skating hard and establishing their forecheck, just like us."

Defenseman and alternate captain Mark Streit talked about the importance of putting together a performance analogous to their last road trip, when they won two out of three games to return home with serious momentum.

"We want to play the same way," Streit said."During the Western conference trip we played really well and there is no reason we shouldn't do the same."

Especially, Streit said, with what is at stake.

"It's crucial when you look at the standings. We are in 13th right now but are only 2 points out of sixth. Win a couple of games and you are in playoff [contention] and lose a couple and you're out."

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As mentioned earlier, the Isles will have to move forward without the defensive presence of Jack Hillen. The Islanders already suffered a devastating blow to their blue line earlier this season, when top shutdown D-man Radek Martinek suffered a season-ending knee injury. In his absence, however, the Isles defense stepped up, Streit pointed out. (He's right....to fill the void once Martinek went down, Andy Sutton emerged as a leader and has played extremely well. Hillen continued his ascent and development and Andrew MacDonald broke out).

"Two of our top-six defensemen are out. We've also had to play at different times without Sutton and Witt and adjust to difficult circumstances. We've battled it out," Streit said. "These things happen unfortunately. We've got to approach it as a loss, but also an opportunity for other guys to step up and play."

Said Gordon on the situation:

"It's big shoes to fill and not that we expect Dustin [Kohn] to fill them completely but he can certainly help out the other five guys," Gordon said.

Example 1 of how this situation can have unintended positive consequences? Andrew MacDonald. After being called up from Bridgeport, MacDonald has proven himself more than capable and has impressed the coaching staff.

"He really came out of nowhere and is showing signs of following in Jack Hillen's footsteps, so that's obviously a positive for us," Gordon said.

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Speaking of MacDonald, him and Bruno Gervais will see more special-teams time in Hillen's absence. On the Isles' struggling PK, one of those two will be up front with Andy Sutton while Hillen is out.