DENVER — This was an NHL-mandated break that the Islanders may not have wanted, given the parameters. Their coach certainly didn’t want to see his team off the ice for four days following a stretch of four wins in five games.
However, that’s in the past now, much like the disappointing first 36 games of this Islanders season. What the Islanders can control now is the way they play the final 46, starting with Friday’s game against the Avalanche here.
“It is tough, we get a little bit of momentum and then we come to the break,” Jack Capuano said after his team practiced on Thursday in suburban Denver. The practice had to be approved by the players as it came on day five of their five-day break. “But the guys are good. We had a spirited practice and I think they’re ready to get back at it.”
The Islanders looked ready in the run-up to the time off, trailing for only 17:43 of the 300 minutes they played in their last five games, all in their 6-4 loss to the Wild. They’ve scored 23 goals in those five games and gotten three standout performances from Thomas Greiss, who is now the No. 1 goaltender with Jaroslav Halak in Bridgeport.
And with the break, Capuano didn’t rule out using either Greiss or J-F Berube on consecutive nights. The Isles head to Arizona to play the Coyotes on Saturday.
“We’ve only got two goaltenders here now so we have to use them when they’re playing well,” Capuano said.
Perhaps had the Islanders been playing this week these two games might have looked like potential letdowns — even though the Isles sit at the bottom of the East. The Avalanche and Coyotes have combined for 47 regulation losses in 76 games and are already battling for the worst record in the league.
So the days off for the Isles, who spent their time away in a number of manners — some went home to visit family in Canada, some went to the beach, a few came out west early — could make them focus on these back-to-back games against the league’s two worst teams.
And the Isles need to be focused, not only due to their mediocre record. They have played the fewest games in the league, so starting Friday the grind really begins.
“Guys have been playing well,” Capuano said. “I like where our confidence is and I’m happy we’re getting back to work.”
Notes & quotes: Adam Pelech was recalled from Bridgeport for the trip though it seems unlikely he’ll play Friday, having just played his first game in six weeks for the Sound Tigers on Wednesday.