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Playoffs a different game for Isles' talented but young forwards

Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders

Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders celebrates his second-period goal against the Arizona Coyotes with teammates Ryan Strome #18 and Brock Nelson #29 at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

One of the biggest boons of this Islanders season has been the progress of their youngest skaters -- guys such as Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Ryan Strome, who have managed to play beyond their experience, be productive up front and otherwise energize a team known for its athleticism and speed.

Their contributions have led to secure spots in the lineup, and in Nelson's case, the distinction of being one of only three Islanders to appear in every game this season.

The combined playoff experience of those three? Oh, that would be a grand total of seven minutes, 44 seconds.

"This is a big test for those guys and I told them, you can be in the opening lineup in Game 1, it doesn't mean you're going to be in it in Game 2," coach Jack Capuano said after practice on Monday at Nassau Coliseum. "You don't have time right now, you can't take shortcuts. This is a different game. This is a man's game. These young guys have played extremely well for us, they've done a lot of good things, but it's a new season."

Nelson is the only one of the three to have tasted this particular brand of hockey. His first NHL game was Game 6 of the first round of the 2013 playoffs -- the overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that ended the Isles' season.

He said his seven-plus minutes didn't give him too much to go on, but he remembers enough to know that it can be an adrenaline-fueled assault on the senses.

"We don't know what to expect other than [how] the intensity amplifies and the speed is a little bit faster," Nelson said. "It's going to be a lot of emotions and highs and lows over a short period of time."

Strome, 21, who led the Isles with a plus-23 and had 50 points this season, expects Game 1 against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night to be distinctly different from what he has experienced.

"The intensity is obviously really high and the mistakes are more magnified," he said. "You've got to kind of tighten up your game and battle."

Going through it with Lee, 24, and Nelson, 23, is helpful, he said, as is the experience of the Islanders who played in the Pittsburgh series. "I get nervous every game," Strome said. "That's just standard. So I'm sure it'll be the same when the stage is a little bigger and everything is a little more in the microscope . . . [but] the veteran guys have helped."

One of those veterans is Matt Martin, who's only a year older than Lee but played in the 2013 series. He said the Isles amped themselves up too much too early in that Pittsburgh series. But as the series progressed, he added, they learned that in order to succeed, they had to regain composure.

"I think they'll be fine," Martin said. "Those guys might take a game or two to get used to the feel, and they might not, but we have a lot of leadership and character on this team . . . The main thing for us is to stay focused. We played a certain way all year and we need to stay in that structure and play in that way."

New York Sports