Doug Weight is encouraged by having consecutive practice days Tuesday and Wednesday before the Islanders close the season with seven games in 10 days. The Islanders had consecutive practice days last week, came out and won games over the Rangers and Penguins.
Weight is less encouraged by what’s happened since. Back-to-back losses with only one goal in each had the Islanders sitting two points out of the last playoff spot entering last night, watching and hoping for the three teams ahead of them for two spots to lose so these final seven games can mean something.
The most frustrating part of these two home losses to the Bruins and Predators — and to a larger extent, the majority of the Isles’ games over a 3-5-1 slide since March 11 — is their starts to games.
“You have to want it — want to come out and put your opponent on their heels,” Weight said. “Our first periods too many times lately have just been touchy-feely, letting all our opponents think they can hang around and get going on us. You can’t do that this time of year.”
Weight let his players, particularly his veteran leaders, know that in no uncertain terms after the first period on Monday. The Islanders were fortunate to be down only 1-0 to Nashville and Weight needed to see more.
“I won’t give you a detailed account, but I think I ended with, ‘For god’s sake, can we just lead?’ ” he said. “And to me, leadership is getting a puck in deep so we can do what we do best, grind teams down. It’s making the smart play on the ice. It’s not yelling at guys or anything like that. And we need more from the leaders we have.”
The opportunity is still there, despite the recent slip. The Islanders face the Flyers and Devils Thursday and Friday; only two of the final seven Isles opponents are playoff-bound. Weight didn’t use Tuesday’s practice and won’t use Wednesday’s to put in many systemic wrinkles.
“We’ll remind them of things, but this really isn’t the time,” Weight said. “It’s time to perform. The proof is when the puck drops, plain and simple. We have to be ready.”
Notes & quotes: D Johnny Boychuk (foot) practiced fully and appeared ready to return to the lineup on Thursday after missing 12 games . . . The Islanders signed D Jake Bischoff, a 2012 seventh-round pick, to a two-year deal. Bischoff had five goals and 27 assists in 38 games as a senior at Minnesota this season. The team signed undrafted free agent F John Stevens on Monday. Stevens, son of Kings associate coach John Stevens, had 28 points in 25 games as a senior captain at Northeastern. Both players signed amateur tryouts to play with Bridgeport. F Matt Gaudreau, younger brother of Flames star Johnny, signed an amateur tryout with Bridgeport after finishing his college career at Boston College.