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Barry Trotz needs to guide Islanders to a playoff spot with his experience

In battle with Washington and Pittsburgh for top spot in Metro Conference, the Isles coach says:  'We can't control what they do, we just got to win our games and wherever it falls it falls and go from there'

Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York

Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders wears a bow tie in honor of former General Manager Bill Torrey prior to the start of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers NYCB Live on Saturday, Mar. 9, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Barry Trotz has been there and done that when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs. But not with the Islanders. Now he needs to shepherd this team in what is quickly becoming its time of need.

The Islanders have not played particularly well of late, especially on offense, where they have only 28 goals in the last 12 games. “We’re just going through a little bit of spell right now where guys are gripping it tight,’’ Anders Lee said. “We just got to continue to work hard and get through it. It’s one of those things that stinks, but there’s nothing you can do except take a good outlook on it and try to get better.’’

With nine games left in the regular season, the Islanders are in a three-team battle for top spot in the Metropolitan Division and the other suitors have the more significant pedigree. The defending champion Capitals started Wednesday with 93 points. The Islanders are second with 91 and the five-time champion Penguins are third with 89. The Islanders play at Montreal Thursday night with the Canadiens battling for a wild-card spot.

The four straight Cups the Islanders won in the early 1980s are not applicable for a team that last reached the playoffs in the 2015-16 season. The players want to win the conference, as does Trotz, but he is wise enough to say first things first.

The loss to injury of productive third-line center Valtteri Filppula, out for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, certainly doesn’t bode well as the Islanders enter the final stretch.

“We set a goal to make the playoffs, we want to make the playoffs,’’ Trotz said, “That’s the first goal. So, let’s get that accomplished then see where we can finish. Obviously Washington’s a very good team, the Penguins are a good team. We’re a good team. You got to win your games. We can’t control what they do.’’

Trotz knows what the other franchises bring. He coached the Capitals to the Cup last season, beating the Penguins along the way. “They’ve got a lot of guys that have gone the distance,’’ he said of both teams. “I think what those experiences do is, they get a calmness to you. When everything around you is chaotic, that experience that you have — and you’ve won — allows you to slow it down a little bit so that you can focus on what you need to do.

“I have a good friend who’s climbed Mount Everest. He didn’t do it till his third time. Because the first time you get surprised by a lot of stuff. The second time you go a little further and you don’t get as surprised as much. Once you make it to the top, you’re ready for it and nothing surprises you and so there is something when you say pedigree, I call it experience. There is something to that, no question.’’

Trotz believes he can help, saying, “I hope so. I’ve had that experience so hopefully I can relate some of the things that’s going to happen on the way.’’

Just getting to the playoffs is the real focus. “Just getting into the playoffs and having a shot at reaching what we all want to do is great,’’ Adam Pelech said. “So, I think that regardless if we win the division or not, getting into the playoffs would be a big step for us.’’

Comparing the down-the-stretch schedules of the Metropolitan Division contenders:

WASHINGTON

Points: 93, 94 or 95

Games Remaining: 8

Home: 5

Away: 3

Vs. Above-.500 teams: 5

Vs. Below-.500 teams: 3

ISLANDERS

Points: 91

Games Remaining: 9

Home: 3

Away: 6

Vs. Above-.500 teams: 5

Vs. Below-.500 teams: 4

PITTSBURGH

Points: 89

Games Remaining: 8

Home: 4

Away: 4

Vs. Above-.500 teams: 4

Vs. Below-.500 teams: 4

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