Sitting out two games as a healthy scratch for the Carolina Hurricanes, Victor Rask got to analyze the game from a different vantage point and, maybe most importantly, simply clear his head.
A mental reset was perhaps just what the 24-year-old Swedish center needed to refocus his efforts.
"I knew I could play better than I did," he said after practice on Saturday. "You just try to take a little time off and reboot."
The Canes defeated Buffalo 3-1 in the first half of a back-to-back a week ago. Coming back home to face the Islanders, the decision was made to rest Rask, who had tallied just 18 points (6g, 12a) and was a minus-12 in his last 58 games, dating back to mid-January of the 2016-17 season.
"It's always hard when you have to do that, but you have to do what you think is best for the group," head coach Bill Peters explained after the game. "We've got to help Victor right now. We've got to help him. We need Victor. We've got to get him back to where he was and even higher. He's still a young guy with a big upside, so we need to find a way to make it work."
Rask remained out when the Rangers came to town prior to Thanksgiving, but after that 6-1 clunker of a loss, it made sense for him to draw back in against Toronto on Friday night.
"Does he need to be better? Yes. Does he know that? Yes. Can he be better? For sure. He knows that," Peters said. "We believe in him, and we'll help him get better, support him and get him with the right people to make him effective."
Rask centered a line with Brock McGinn and Elias Lindholm against Toronto, and though he didn't factor in on the scoresheet, he had a couple of quality scoring chances and did a lot of good things. He finished the night a plus-3 with four shots on goal and three hits in 14:10 of ice time.
"I thought I skated better than I have," he said on Saturday. "It's too bad we lost, but I felt like I was skating good."
Rask nearly scored twice in the first period alone, the first a bang-bang play in the slot that Frederik Andersen bodied down and the second a one-timer off a feed from Teuvo Teravainen.
"I had a couple good chances. Should have had a goal there. Great pass by Turbo on that play," Rask said. "I thought I skated well, and I got scoring chances."
The challenge for Rask now is to build upon his return to the lineup, beginning with Sunday's matinee tilt against the Nashville Predators.
"I thought he played well," Peters said. "I thought that line gave us some good shifts, and he did some good things. It was a positive sign."