The question to Barry Trotz was whether he has sensed any anxiousness as the Islanders await the start of their second-round playoff series.
“Other than my own?” the coach quickly replied.
The Islanders resumed practice on Monday at East Meadow after taking Easter Sunday off, knowing their long layoff would come to an end at some point this week. They completed their four-game sweep of the Penguins with a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh last Tuesday.
They will face the winner of the Capitals-Hurricanes’ series. Game 6 was Monday night at Carolina and Game 7, if necessary, is Wednesday night at Washington.
“I don’t know if we ever lost the feeling of being in the playoffs,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “We have a really good team as far as this goes. It’s not straying away. You have nice weather, baseball games, golf. But you don’t stray away from what we’re doing right now.”
Mayfield and right wing Cal Clutterbuck were both back on the ice for Monday’s 75-minute practice after missing practices Friday and Saturday because of injuries suffered in Game 4 against the Penguins.
Almost all of the second part of the up-tempo session was devoted to special teams, particularly the penalty kill.
Trotz said he detected more of a “pop or an urgency,” than in the Islanders’ first two practices after dispatching the Penguins.
“After we finished the series, we knew we were going to have a pretty long break so, I think, maybe take a step back on your focus,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “Now that we’re starting to get within a couple of days here, you can tell the guys are starting to dial it back in and practice is a lot sharper. We’re really starting to prepare for a game.”
“Today was a good start to almost hit the restart button,” center Mathew Barzal added. “We just take it day by day and not look seven days off. You’re still in playoff mode, doing the right things. Staying on track is a big key.”
Trotz repeated on Monday he wanted the Capitals-Hurricanes’ series to extend as far as possible, leaving the second-round opponent physically tired while the Islanders were able to get healthier.
At the same time, Trotz acknowledged he was getting antsy.
”During the season, especially the last half of the season, you’re playing every second day,” Trotz said. “You’re preparing ever day for the next opponent. You’re finishing up your postgame analysis and then you’re right into the next team. You don’t take a day off from a coaching side.
“All of a sudden, we’re doing twice the work because you’re preparing for two teams,” Trotz added of having to scout both the Capitals and Hurricanes. “You want to give yourself enough leeway time. So, we’re doing twice the work. But you have four times the time. It seems like we haven’t played for a while.”
The players have been doing some of their own scouting, watching the Capitals-Hurricanes as well.
“It’s hard not to pick up things when you’re watching, that’s just how I’ve watched hockey my whole life,” Barzal said. “I never really watch as a fan. It’s entertainment more. It’s more just watching the intensity. I like watching individual players, keying on the top guys. When you watch on TV, it can make the game faster or heavier than it really is. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge.”
Pulock, too, said he’s been diligently watching the Capitals-Hurricanes’ series but added, “For the most part, you have a good idea of those two teams since you play them so much.”
He’s just ready to play again.
“We’re getting rested up here and we’re preparing ourselves for another battle,” Pulock said. “But it is tough to just kind of wait and wait. It seems like such a long time.”