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Islanders have fun practice at Stadium, then get down to business

Islanders center John Tavares practices on the ice

Islanders center John Tavares practices on the ice at Yankee Stadium in preparation for their Stadium Series game with the Rangers. (Jan. 28, 2014) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Islanders and their families soaked in the Yankee Stadium experience on Tuesday. Wednesday night, the Isles will have to get serious and ignore all the things they enjoyed about yesterday's outdoor practice and family skate.

"When we get out there tomorrow," Jack Capuano said, "it'll be all business."

They can't allow tonight's Stadium Series game against the Rangers to be any other way. Coming in with a three-game winless streak, still in last place in the Metro Division and seven points out of a playoff spot, the Islanders can't be distracted by any of the elements or the specialness of the spotlight game.

"You get to play this game, this opportunity and it's a very exciting thing," said John Tavares in a family-filled Yankees clubhouse following the 45-minute practice and hour-plus family skate.

"It's obviously a very big game for us," Tavares said. "Our games with the Rangers are always very unpredictable."

That may help the Islanders going into such an unfamiliar environment. So too may being in the prime-time NHL spotlight, where the Islanders represented themselves very well in last season's playoff series against the Penguins.

They are far from that level of importance now. Monday's 6-3 loss to the Bruins left the Islanders with 50 points in 55 games; with five games left until the Olympic break, the Islanders need points in all of them just to feel they're in the playoff conversation once the schedule picks back up on Feb. 27.

"The way it's been going the last couple games, being here might give us a little bit of life," Capuano said. "We've played a lot of hockey this month, without too many days off. Maybe this game will be something that can spark us."

Players said the ice was in good shape, given the postgame comments from the Rangers and Devils after Sunday's 7-3 Rangers win -- Martin Brodeur called it the "worst ice I've ever played on."

Evgeni Nabokov, who will likely make his first start in goal since suffering a quad injury on Jan. 6, said the conditions were not so bad, if a bit chilly. "If there's no wind, then I'm good," he said. If there is wind? "Then I'll be cold."

If the Islanders get out with a win, then it will have been a worthwhile experience. Yesterday was the day to enjoy it. Wednesday night, as Cal Clutterbuck said, "we're focused on two points."

Notes & quotes:Travis Hamonic (concussion) was placed on injured reserve and Matt Donovan, sent down just a day earlier, was recalled. Hamonic had his first hard skate on Monday and did not feel well enough to keep working on the ice. His IR stint is retroactive to Jan. 12, so he can come off at any time. Donovan will likely play in Matt Carkner's spot.

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