Doug Weight is acknowledging the “elephant in the room.”
Which is, as much as players are taught to focus only on the next game, there’s no getting around the Islanders’ need to win at least 10 of their final 13 games, in the coach’s estimation.
“We know we’ve got to go on a big run,” Weight said after Tuesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center. “It’s going to start with one game. We have to plan for Thursday like it’s April 8 and go from there.”
The Islanders, eight points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, face the Capitals on Thursday night at Barclays Center to start a home-and-home series on successive nights.
The Islanders concluded a 1-0-3 road trip by snapping an 0-4-4 slide with Sunday night’s 5-2 win at Calgary.
“You go eight games and get four points, regardless of being in position to win or not, that’s pretty catastrophic at this time, there’s no ands, ifs or buts,” Weight said. “But it happened. It’s behind us. We’ve got to win every game and that’s how we’ve got to go about it. We’ve got to beat a good team on Thursday and then we’ll try to beat them again Friday and we’ll go from there. That’s our mindset.”
The Islanders play six of their next seven and nine of their final 13 at home.
Still, the reality is the Islanders are likely to miss the playoffs for the second straight season after making it in three of the previous four seasons, though they have won just one series since 1993.
And part of the frustration in the Islanders’ room now is the feeling of a blown chance.
“I’ve been on teams that have been in position to not make the playoffs and it’s a different feeling because, deep down, you know the team probably doesn’t have it,” Cal Clutterbuck, in his 10th NHL season, said. “Even if you were to make it, you wouldn’t really be able to make much of an impact in the postseason. But that’s not this team and that’s the frustrating thing for sure.”
“It’s extremely frustrating,” added defenseman Thomas Hickey. “You look at teams that are primed for Stanley Cup runs and you have your veteran leadership and then you have the young, affordable, high-energy players that are a big part of your team. We do have that. You look over the past nine games and we lost eight in a row and we probably could have won six. I do think this group has that kind of potential and it is tough to see those points slip away.”
But Clutterbuck believes there might be one positive in the Islanders’ desperate situation.
“We’re in a position now where we can kind of allow instincts to take over,” Clutterbuck said. “We’ve got nothing to lose in this situation now. I think that sometimes promotes a little more confident play. Sometimes, it creates results.”