SUNRISE, Fla. – The Islanders will practice on Wednesday. This is a rarity of late.
“We haven’t practiced in, like, forever,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said after Monday night’s 5-1 win over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. “We’ve got to get in the rest. We’ve had some tough travel. But we’ve just got to balance it.”
The Islanders conclude a three-game trip against the Panthers on Thursday night at BB&T Center. That also will conclude a stretch of 10 of 13 games on the road over 26 days. They have had just five full practices during the stretch.
They were off again on Tuesday and also did not practice on Sunday following the trip-opening 3-1 loss at Dallas the previous night. The Islanders arrived in Tampa, Florida, around 3 a.m. on Sunday.
The goal for Trotz and his staff is to make sure the players have enough rest and recovery while still maintaining a sharp playing edge.
“Our staff does a great job of making sure we’re rested and ready to go,” right wing Josh Bailey said. “I think it goes a long way. It’s been a pretty grueling schedule for us the last three weeks. A lot of travel. A lot of late nights getting in places and your sleep patterns are thrown off. It’s never an excuse; it’s part of being in the NHL. When you get those days off, you try to make the most of them.”
Included in this stretch was a three-game California swing that saw the Islanders depart Los Angeles immediately after a 4-1 loss on Nov. 27. That got the team plane back to Long Island a little bit after 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving. Most of the players then had a full day of family holiday activities.
“I think it’s nice to just reset, being smart with time,” center Brock Nelson said. “It’s a grind, the travel the last week and a half. We’ve had some pretty late nights that maybe we’re not used to on the East Coast. We’re pretty lucky with the travel we have, all the teams are in close proximity.”
Nelson said it’s important to take a mental break from the day-in, day-out nature of the season and it’s often easier to do on the road. At home, he added, many players head to the rink to work out or skate on their days off just because it’s easy to do.
Two days off in Florida is quite different. Nelson said many players just sat outside in Tampa on Sunday watching football.
“Soak up the sun, it’s 85, can’t complain,” Nelson said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the sun too much in New York. It’s nice to kind of sit outside. You almost get too tired from being outside all day. Six, seven o’clock rolls around and you’re in bed.”
The Islanders have had game-day morning skates for all but two of the games so far in this stretch. Most of them have been full-squad skates and much of the game preparation is also handled through video work.
“Being able to go out there for just 15, 20 minutes at the skates, break the gear in and get up a sweat, it’s nice,” Nelson said.