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Islanders don't know yet who they will face first

Evgeni Nabokov is congratulated by Kyle Okposo, right,

Evgeni Nabokov is congratulated by Kyle Okposo, right, after the Islanders beat the Florida Panthers, 5-2, in a game at Nassau Coliseum. (April 16, 2013) Credit: AP

The Islanders still don't know who they'll be facing in the playoffs -- it's down now to the Penguins or Bruins -- but it's still time to get back to work.

While Jack Capuano gave his team the day off after the Isles stumbled to the finish line of the regular season, gaining only one point in their final two games, all eyes were on the Rangers and Senators. The Rangers leapfrogged the Islanders in the standings with a season-ending win over the Devils, but the Senators lost their home finale to the Flyers and will need at least one point Sunday against the Bruins to drop the Isles into eighth and a date with the Penguins.

The Islanders, like everyone else in the East, would just as soon avoid top-seeded Pittsburgh and its array of talents, including but not limited to Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and most likely Sidney Crosby. But the Islanders are in the postseason and they were bound to play a tough team no matter whether they finished seventh or eighth.

"It's just time to regroup," Andrew MacDonald said after the Isles' 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday night. "We don't know who we're playing yet, so it's time refocus on ourselves and be ready. It's a brand new start, a brand new season."

One that 15 other Islanders besides MacDonald have never experienced at the NHL level. Capuano has preached his team's need to shut out the nay-sayers outside the locker room, and his players have bought in over the second half of the season, exemplified by their 14-6-4 second half.

Now comes a need to not stare at either of the imposing rosters awaiting them and worry about getting back to the way the Islanders played over their 11-1-2 streak that lifted them from three points out of the playoffs into their first playoff appearance in six years.

"We wanted to finish strong these last few games and make sure we're doing what we need to do," Josh Bailey said. "If we're just happy to be there, we'll be going home a week after [the teams that didn't make the playoffs], and that's a waste."

Capuano had avoided scoreboard watching, but knew there would be too much preparation to simply wait, so he was certainly glued to the large number of games Saturday.

But whether it's the Penguins or the Bruins matters little. The Islanders must embrace the fresh start of the postseason, starting today at practice.

"We've given ourselves a chance because of the way we've learned to play, and we'll get back to that now, no question," MacDonald said. "We'll all be ready. We'll hold ourselves to an even higher standard now."

New York Sports