The last time the Islanders were here, about 10 months ago, could be considered a low point in the team's recent history -- which is something, given this team's recent history.
When the players gathered for practice on March 5, the locker-room television was tuned to TSN's trade deadline coverage. Phrases along the line of "rock bottom" were tossed around by the various journalists and former NHL players as general manager Garth Snow worked to find a decent deal in which to unload Thomas Vanek.
But those bad memories have been replaced by the good vibes of this successful season. Snow is a genius after trades for Jaro Halak, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. The Islanders head into tonight's game against the Oilers with 26 wins, tied with the Canadiens for most in the NHL.
All is forgotten. Right?
"I honestly haven't thought about it until you mentioned it," Kyle Okposo said. "We all know the media's got their jobs to do, and that's to formulate opinions. We know as an organization what we have in this room and we've always tried to keep the negativity from creeping in. We've done a pretty good job of it."
One of those former players who was on TV that day in March was Ray Ferraro, a former Islander who does analysis for TSN. Ferraro is quick to acknowledge that the Isles' fortunes have turned in 10 months and to acknowledge that things looked bleak on deadline day.
"To be honest, what else are you going to say? The last time the franchise won a playoff series, I was playing. You know that can't be good," Ferraro said. "That day [in March] felt like the culmination of years and years of them just not being anywhere."
But Ferraro isn't trying to find any way to take shots at his old team.
"I know people are sensitive about it. I hear from Islanders fans on Twitter plenty," he said. "That was the best part of my career, playing there. I'm thrilled to see the Coliseum is buzzing again. I'm happy to see them looked upon as a good, young team, with legit growth in front of them -- not just the kinda-sorta-maybe thing they'd been doing."
There certainly is a segment of Islanders-watchers out there who would dearly love to see Snow, Jack Capuano or John Tavares issue a public calling-out to the pundits and commentators who have stuck it to the team during the past few seasons.
That is not anyone's style on this team, though. And perhaps that is no small part of the reason why the Isles have put March 5 so far in the past.
"I'm not really looking to stir the pot with that stuff," Okposo said. "If I feel like there's something that needs to be said, I'll say it. I'm not afraid of that -- to defend your teammates, your coaches, your GM, your owner. There's a time and a place to do that and there's a time and a place to let your play go do the talking for you. Most of the time, I'd prefer to just go out there and play."
Tavares right on pace
Perhaps John Tavares hasn't been as dominant as in previous seasons, but the statistics show he's not far off his typical full-season pace.
Tavares is on target for 36 goals and 36 assists, and the goal total would be a career high for the Islanders' captain. Eleven months ago, he was on pace for 33 goals and the best year of his career when a knee injury suffered during the Sochi Olympics prematurely ended his season.
Tavares has turned his game up a notch of late, with five goals and two assists in his last six games.
The most important stat that relates to Tavares is this one: The Islanders are 10-3-0 in games in which Tavares hasn't recorded a point. Last season, in games in which Tavares played, the team was 4-10-0 when he didn't score.
Status quo on Grabner
The Islanders had an uneventful practice in Edmonton on Saturday and made no roster moves, which means Michael Grabner (lower body) remains on injured reserve for another game.