The Islanders' Mathew Barzal answers questions at a news conference following...

The Islanders' Mathew Barzal answers questions at a news conference following the team's win over the Hurricanes in Game 5 of an NHL Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C. on April 25. Credit: AP/Karl B DeBlaker

Mathew Barzal knows he and Bo Horvat must produce more next season, regardless of whether he plays on Horvat’s right wing or moves back to center.

Such increased production would help the Islanders get off to a better start, rather than waiting until the season’s final game to qualify for the playoffs.

“The goal is to be in the playoffs every year,” Barzal said on Monday during the team’s breakup day after a first-round playoff ouster to the Hurricanes. “This year, it was fighting for that last spot. But I want to be in a position where it’s not just trying to sneak into the playoffs, it’s going in and having a little comfort halfway through the season. I feel like the last two years it’s been, 45 games in, we’re scratching and clawing.”

The Islanders earned a wild-card berth in coach Lane Lambert’s first season with a 42-31-9 mark after falling six points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 26. Neither president/general manager Lou Lamoriello nor Lambert addressed the media during breakup day and have yet to speak since.

Barzal, who turns 26 in May, returned for the six playoff games after missing the season’s final 23 games with a knee injury. He begins an eight-year, $73.2 million extension next season, concurrent to the eight-year, $68 million deal for Horvat, 28.

Lambert moved Barzal from center to right wing upon Horvat’s acquisition from the Canucks on Jan. 30. The aim is for the two to form a potent scoring duo on the Islanders’ top line. Barzal called it a coach’s decision as to which position he plays.

“I’ve been a center for 15 years so I wouldn’t say it was extremely natural right away,” Barzal said. “But playing with Bo or even a little bit with Pager [Jean-Gabriel Pageau] late, they make it easy because they’re just in the right positions and they are predictable. As a centerman, you’re crossing over a little more whereas wing is a little more stop-and-start and your side of the ice a little more. That was the one thing getting used to, I wasn’t in all areas of the ice as much as I was at center. There’s definitely a little bit of a mentality shift.”

Barzal had 14 goals and 37 assists in 58 games before getting hurt and added two playoff goals while Horvat had seven goals and nine assists in 30 games after the trade and added a goal and an assist in the playoffs.

“When it’s a lower-body injury, it makes it a little harder because you can’t really skate over the course of your rehab,” Barzal said. “That was tough jumping into the fire right in the playoffs but I don’t think it’s an excuse at all. I felt good out there.

“I think whether I’m a wing or center, if me and Bo are on the ice together, we should be able to create. It was unfortunate in the playoffs that we couldn’t get a little more done.”

Horvat, too, knows the higher expectations for next season after setting career highs this season with 38 goals and 70 points, most with the Canucks. Being settled in with the Islanders should help.

“It was a lot this year, I’m not going to lie,” Horvat said. “Mentally, especially, not knowing where I was going to be.

“I’m not trying to make excuses by any means. Would I have liked to score more goals? Of course. I definitely hold myself to a high standard. When the goals did dry up, it was frustrating. I think it’s going to make me better in the long run.”

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