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History shows that the Islanders need to get their act in gear now

Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders

Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders celebrates his goal with John Tavares #91 and Kyle Okposo #21 to take a 1-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center on Nov. 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Getty Images / Harry How

This is Thanksgiving week, which means it's the traditional (and surprisingly early) make-or-break time in the NHL.

The history is pretty surprising: In the last six full NHL seasons, seven Eastern Conference teams that were out of a playoff spot on Thanksgiving made the playoffs. Only two, the 2010-11 Sabres and the 2013-14 Blue Jackets, were more than three points out.

The Islanders aren't going to be in grave danger by Thursday. But there is danger lurking for a team that might have thought it was past such problems so early in the season.

In the wake of the Travis Hamonic trade request news last week, his Islanders teammates spoke of something they speak of often: It's a tight-knit group in their locker room.

In this case, that's good. Hamonic's privacy and professionalism won't be questioned by anyone in there, because teammates such as John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin have played with him for a half-dozen seasons.

In some cases, that family feeling is bad: Jack Capuano and some of the veterans admitted last season that it took a long time for the team's leaders to be able to call each other out and hold each other accountable for mistakes or soft play.

Now could be one of those bad times. Between Hamonic asking out, and the subsequent daily public watch on when and where he'll leave, and a middling 10-8-3 record that will have the Islanders at best in the last Eastern Conference playoff spot when they face the Flyers on Wednesday, this is as crucial a time for Garth Snow, Capuano and the team's core as any in recent memory.

Okposo said the Hamonic talk has not revived his own uncomfortable summer, when he was the subject of trade discussions. "It's not something that gets talked about in here, so it's not a distraction," he said. "Even if you let yourself think about it, you can't let it distract you. We have bigger things to focus on in here."

When that focus wavers, as it seemed to during their current 4-6-1 funk, the questions come out in full force. Can Hamonic give 100 percent while hoping for a trade because of a serious family concern? Can Snow hold out for the best deal while his team bobs along just above the water line?

Everyone is on notice. The Islanders will make an ownership transition in July, with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin taking the majority reins from Charles Wang. The team's partner/landlord at Barclays Center wants to sell more tickets.

Those are the pressures on Snow and the coaching staff, as tight-knit a group as the players say they are in the room. Those same players, who have benefited from an extremely player-friendly coach in Capuano, can't abuse that situation by not being tough on one another after games such as Sunday's 4-2 loss in Montreal, when the players were more upset about borderline penalty calls than their 0-for-5 night on the power play and 2-for-5 night on the penalty kill.

Thanksgiving is coming, the most important family time of the year. If the Islanders don't treat this week with the proper importance, their own family may be fractured.

New York Sports