The Islanders trail the Bruins by four points in a five-team race for the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
John Tavares succinctly defined the Islanders plight.
“Every game is so important right now, regardless of where we’re playing or who we’re playing, we’re a desperate hockey team,’’ Tavares said Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center. The Bruins have 86 points, followed by the Lightning (83), Islanders (82), Hurricanes (82) and Flyers (80).
The Islanders have seven games left, starting Thursday in Philadelphia against the Flyers. “The importance is dire,” Doug Weight said of the game. “We’ve got to win a game against a real good team, a hungry team that now thinks they have a chance, too. It’s a fun scenario. I expect a lot from our group.’’
Tavares will be counted on to rejuvenate an offense that totaled two goals in consecutive losses to the Bruins and Predators. “He was very vocal to me,’’ Weight said. “I’m confident that this is his time of year. He’ll lead us like he always does in those big games, for sure. And you need that.’’
Tavares has 28 goals and 37 assists and is five points behind last year’s total of 70 points. “I think I know we’re not going to have success unless everyone’s contributing,’’ he said. “I don’t think I could go out there and try to do everything by myself but, certainly, with the responsibility I have on the ice and being the captain and being in the room you certainly feel a lot of the responsibility.’’
Playing in the postseason, Tavares added, “It’s what we want, it’s what I want as bad as anybody. I just try to go out there, do everything I can, but at the same time don’t go out and try to do too much. Do what helps bring the team’s success and make me successful as a player. But, yeah, this is the time of year you want to play and you want to step up and play well.’’
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk appears ready to return the lineup after missing 12 games with a foot injury. Weight was in the process of making a decision on his availability. “You want to play every game,’’ Boychuk said, “But unfortunately I got hurt. I just want to get back and do whatever I can to help the team win. These are must-win every game. You have to lay everything out there because this is the time of year to get every point we can.’’
The Bruins have six games left, five at home. The Islanders are on the road for five of their seven. “Certainly, we’ve gotten some better results on the road [lately],” Tavares said, “so hopefully we can build on that . . . we just hope we’re playing for a lot longer than just the next seven games.’’
Notes & quotes: Bridgeport Sound Tigers forward Tanner Fritz agreed to a two-year contract for the 2017-18 season. Fritz, 25, has 19 goals and 21 assists for the AHL affiliate.