TAMPA — The Islanders are here again in Florida after a quick turnaround from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against a rested Lightning club, but head coach Jack Capuano isn’t whining about the schedule.
“Turnaround can be a mental thing, no question,” he said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “You find out late that we’re going to get on a plane the next day, but we’ve been resilient and there’s no excuses: That’s been the message to our guys, we can’t control what we can’t control. We deserve to be here, our team has battled through so much this year. We had some puck luck and our goaltender played well. The fact that we’re moving on, we should be excited if the games are spread out or back to back. The fact that we’re playing against Tampa should give us enough excitement to continue.”
In his pre-game briefing at Amalie Arena, Capuano touched on a number of topics:
— On playoff experience perhaps being a factor, with Tampa’s deep runs versus this edition of the Islanders’ maiden voyage into the second round: “We got some guys that have played a lot of hockey. At this point of the year, with the way the NHL is, the parity, there’s a lot of teams that are evenly matched. Maybe from Game 7 last year against Washington, we learned a lesson; maybe we played tight, hopefully we’re beyond that. (Nick) Leddy (who won a Cup with Chicago) and (Johnny) Boychuk (who won with Bruins) are an extension of the coaching staff, like 91, 21, 51. It can’t hurt you. Any great team, when it comes down to this situation, it’s about leadership and accountability.’’
— Injured forward Josh Bailey remained in New York; defenseman Ryan Pulock is here. But Capuano did not announce his lineup because he’s weighing “the health of a few guys.”
— It’s all but official that Ryan Strome, who was one of the first players off the ice, will return to the lineup after, as Capuano said, “sitting watching two important games … It’s tough to make those decisions, based upon the matchups that you have at home. If he gets back in there, we need him to play with the pace he needs to play and the determination in his game. I’ve talked to Ryan plenty of times and have no doubt in my mind he’ll do the job for us.”
— Goaltender Thomas Greiss (4-2-0, 1.79 GAA. .944 save percentage). What stands out is “his compete level ... He’s not sitting back in his net, he’s outside the top of the crease, making that first save. We’re clearing pucks for him and that’s what you want, especially against a power play like this, which is dynamic (4-for-23). He’s going to have to come up big for us. He’s had success because of his work ethic … Their young players have a lot of skill and speed, so we’re going to have to defend hard in this series.”
— On the Tampa penalty kill, best in the playoffs at 25-of-26: “They have the desperation … they’re blocking a lot of shots, you know that somewhere in those two minutes, they’re going to have a 2 on 1 and expose you somewhere. Ben’s (Bishop, 4-1-0, 1.61, .950) a great goaltender and they’ve got, like us, guys willing to sacrifice.”