Scott Gordon called the home-and-home series with the Rangers Wednesday night and Thursday "a mini-playoff series."
Gordon gave his players a day off the ice Tuesday, holding meetings with a few but nothing in terms of a punishment skate for the terrible outing the night before. With five games in the next eight nights, he can't afford to burn them out.
"We skated between games [Saturday and Monday] and obviously it didn't work too well," Gordon said at IceWorks in Syosset. "Given the fact we're coming off a pretty poor performance, and with two games back to back, I thought it would be best to mentally get away from it. They're going to drop the puck at seven o'clock and we need to be ready to play."
They weren't on Monday, and the Isles hobble into the home-and-home with their unfriendly neighbors on a 4-8-0 skid. Of course, the Rangers are 4-9-2 in their last 15. Both teams have 31 points and entered last night in a five-way tie for 10th in the East.
Not exactly a recipe for intense, quality hockey. But you never know with Isles-Rangers, especially the last few seasons, when the team with the worse record has won the season series four of the last six years.
"Maybe the heightened emotion will add a little fuel to the fire and get us to right the ship a little quicker," Andy Sutton said. "We'd much rather play badly one game and not do it over a stretch of games. So we can get it all out of our system [from Monday] and beat the Rangers twice."
Gordon didn't reveal any of his thought on lineup changes - just about every player on the ice Monday had a lousy night - or on goaltending, though Martin Biron, who got some work in with goaltending consultant Sudarshan Maharaj at IceWorks Tuesday, would seem the likelier candidate to start Wednesday night. Dwayne Roloson, who was lifted after giving up five goals on Monday, would then start Thursday and Saturday at home.
The goaltender didn't matter on Monday, when the Isles gave up seven goals "on mistakes you just can't make," according to Gordon. If the Rangers and the hostile Garden crowd can't get the Islanders to play with some grit, then even the mild improvements this season are for nothing.
A graphic in today's print edition listed the wrong locations for tonight and tomorrow night's Rangers-Islanders home-and-home series. Tonight's game will be played at Madison Square Garden. Thursday night's game will be held at Nassau Coliseum.
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