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SportsHockeyIslanders

Islanders must keep focus after pounding Rangers

With the Isles beset by injuries and still on outskirts of playoffs, joy of Saturday’s 7-2 win at Garden must be short-lived.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal is congratulated

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal is congratulated after his goal against New York Rangers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 13, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

MONTREAL — The Islanders can’t afford to bask in the afterglow of Saturday’s 7-2 thrashing of the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Recent history for the Isles says they don’t usually let down after beating their rivals. They are 5-1-2 in the next game after beating the Rangers, including a win over the Sharks two days after a shootout win over the Rangers in October.

But the Islanders’ situation in the Eastern Conference should help them stay focused. They will enter Monday night’s game against the Canadiens outside the East playoff picture.

“We’ve just got to win,” Doug Weight said after Sunday’s practice. “We put ourselves in a good position early and we kind of put that away; now it’s just a big mess. We don’t need to scoreboard-watch; we need to take care of our business.”

They will try to do that on Monday while missing another regular, as Casey Cizikas is sidelined indefinitely with a hand injury. Weight had no update on Cizikas on Sunday, but the emergency recall of Tanner Fritz was enough of an update.

Andrew Ladd (upper body) went on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 5, so he can come off IR at any time, but that won’t be anytime soon. Ladd still hasn’t skated since leaving the Jan. 5 loss to the Penguins.

Ditto defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who already has missed the last seven games.

Josh Bailey (lower body) did skate before the team’s practice on Sunday, but with the game in Montreal on Monday and a Brooklyn date with the Devils on Tuesday, it’s hard to see how Bailey will get enough practice time to be ready before the end of the week.

So Fritz, who played his first three NHL games last week before going back to Bridgeport during the Islanders’ bye week, likely will be the new fourth-line center. Michael Dal Colle stayed up and will get another game, as will Sebastian Aho on defense.

It’s all a bit makeshift, but Weight is accentuating the work he and his fellow coaches did during the bye to restore some structure and accountability to the team’s game, particularly in the defensive zone.

“We did a lot of work in the last six, seven days to figure out what the consistent theme would be moving ahead, maybe even going back to last year as well,” Weight said. “More of how we coached, how we motivated, our structure, what we focused on in practice. We learned a little bit from last year.”

New York Sports