Kyle Okposo admitted that it's hard not to watch the scoreboard, even after another strong performance by the Islanders on Saturday night.
"You're going to look," Okposo said after the Islanders' 4-2 win over the Lightning propelled his team to a 6-1-1 record in its last eight games and maintained the Isles' place among the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. "When you're in the race, you definitely look. But we have a different feeling this year; we know if we play the way we need to play and win our games, we won't have to worry about what the other teams do."
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That is a very different development for the Islanders, who have needed wins and an immense amount of help in the final months of recent seasons, only to fall short.
They also are playing differently. There is the appropriate level of desperation, accompanied by a confidence that has carried from period to period, through some strong shifts and shaky ones. It has allowed the Islanders to bounce back the way they did Saturday, when they lost a one-goal lead early in the third but pushed back for the win.
But even with this run that has put the Islanders in good position for their first playoff berth in six seasons, they still are in eighth, left to watch that scoreboard on nights like Sunday night. The Senators, two points ahead of the Islanders, lost to Florida. The Capitals beat Tampa Bay to draw even with the Islanders and lead the Southeast Division.
It may be hard for the players to avoid watching the scoreboard and checking the standings, but not their coach.
"Not too much," Jack Capuano said of his scoreboard-watching tendencies. "We can only control what we can control. I've preached it all along; I say it to my children, to the players. There's controllable and uncontrollable circumstances, and we need to focus on what we control, and that's how we play."
Notes & quotes: Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic, who were minus-14 and 15 at one point, are a plus-10 and plus-8 during the Islanders' 6-1-1 streak. The Isles have allowed only 13 goals in those eight games.