Jack Capuano said his team needed the four-day All-Star break after a 3-8-1 slide through most of January.

But now, even with a 20-point gap between the Islanders and the eighth-place Thrashers, tonight's opponent in Atlanta, there still is work to be done in the final 33 games of the season.

"The microscope's on a lot of people," Capuano said after yesterday's practice at IceWorks in Syosset. "It's a great opportunity for a lot of guys, including the coaching staff."

Capuano dearly would like to show he deserves to have the interim tag removed. Most of the lineup has the same interim tag, given the likelihood of another season without playoffs and some retooling needed again in the offseason.

But there is one aspect of the current squad that's encouraging for the players. With Matt Moulson signing a three-year, $9.4-million contract just after the team departed for the break last week, the last real trade chip for general manager Garth Snow was locked up. Even with 28 days until the trade deadline, there appear to be no more major moves left to make with this team.

"Everybody's kind of relieved that it's been resolved and Matt's going to be here," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "I think we know who's going to be here now, there's no uncertainty, and we want to be a team that's going to battle it out to the end. We're not just going to ride this thing out to April."

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To increase the level of competition, the Islanders recalled defensemen Dylan Reese and Ty Wishart and goaltender Kevin Poulin.

Wishart, 22, who was acquired from the Lightning for goaltender Dwayne Roloson a month ago, might not play Tuesday night in Atlanta, but he's going to get a look. He had five assists in 12 games with Bridgeport.

"We're going to go with who's playing best," Capuano said. "We've got some guys here who are going to get their shot."

Notes & quotes:D Milan Jurcina (upper body) practiced Monday, giving the Isles eight defensemen, but Jurcina won't play either Tuesday night or Wednesday in Pittsburgh . . . Doug Weight (back), Trent Hunter (knee) and G Nathan Lawson (knee) skated before the team's practice. D Mark Streit (shoulder) did not and remains on a limited skating schedule.