Ten games into this season and the Islanders have the identical 4-6-2 record as last year. It's a disquieting reminder of a month when the team essentially saw its playoff hopes evaporate.
Despite the next two games being in Colorado and Vancouver and the Islanders being winless in four road games, John Tavares isn't buying into the comparison with a season ago. "It doesn't feel like last year, it doesn't feel that way,'' he said Wednesday.
"We're only two games under .500, so there's no need to panic and feel like we are playing terrible hockey and we've lost our game or our identity. We have to be better in some areas and that will give us a good chance of winning and breed some more confidence. But definitely we want to win more hockey games and have to win more hockey games if we want to get to where we want to be, so there's a lot of room to improve and be better in a lot of areas. But it certainly doesn't feel like last year and I don't really think that is in any of our heads."
Defenseman Mark Streit agreed. "We don't want to look back at the beginning of last year. We want to remember the way we finished the year," the Islanders' captain said. "We didn't find our groove yet. I'm positive we're going to get there. It might be the same record, but the chemistry, the mood in the locker room, it's way different. We just need to get on a winning note here."
Coach Jack Capuano, still unhappy after Monday's defensive lapses against the Bruins in a 6-2 loss, is leaning toward giving Mike Mottau some playing time after the defenseman spent the last five games as a healthy scratch. "I'm sure Mike will get in there sooner rather than later," Capuano said.
Mottau is eager to play. "I'm ready whenever they call my number," he said. "It's disappointing any time you are out of the lineup, but it's part of the game. I feel good physically, it's just a matter of performing."
Capuano is also keeping an eye on Nino Niederreiter, who is in the second week of a conditioning assignment in Bridgeport. He has yet to play in a regular-season game after sustaining a groin injury in preseason. "The reports are that he is working hard. I've watched his shifts, he seems to be doing well," Capuano said.
As to whether Niederreiter will join the team on the road, Capuano said general manager Garth Snow would make that decision.