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AN IDENTITY FORMED

by Jason Lockhart / New York Islanders

Only 14 games into the season, Nolan likes what he sees from his team



A YEAR LATER, A YEAR CLOSER

With a record of 9-5-0, the Islanders have the fifth-highest winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. A year ago, the team sat at 6-6-2 heading into their 15th game. It's no surprise the Islanders are ahead of where they were last year. For head Coach Ted Nolan, it's all about the comfort level between himself and the players.

"Last year the players didn't know me and I didn't know the players," said Ted. "We didn't know each other. We probably started building that trust halfway through the year. We built upon that at the start of this year with the strong leadership of Sillinger, Witt, Park and all the guys from last year. With new guys we brought in this year, the adjustment has been much quicker."

Just roaming the locker room, it's tough to find so-called cliques. There are veterans talking to rookies, Americans talking to Czechs, and so on.

"We're happy with where we are now," said Nolan. "Guys are getting better and everyone is feeling more comfortable around with one another. We're on the right track to where we want to be."



BERARD'S STATUS

The Islanders are ranked tied for sixth in the league in power play rate of 22.2%. But the loss of Bryan Berard has been evident. With Berard in the lineup, the Islanders have a power play rate of 25.9%. Since his injury, the Islanders have gone 4-of-26 (15.4%) on the man-advantage.

Berard has been skating with the team the past week or so, and looks to be close to returning.

"I haven't check with the medical staff, but he looked good in practice," said Nolan. "We'll see how he is after practice. You get to the point where it's day-to-day, and hopefully he'll be back soon."

When asked if he was running practice with the assumption Berard would be in Thursday, Nolan replied: "Yes. We like to do that especially once the player starts skating in practice full out. We like to put them in the situation they would play in. We'll see how Bryan feels tomorrow."



GUERIN NOT SKATING

After being hit with the puck above the eye in Saturday's 3-2 win over New Jersey, captain Bill Guerin was diagnosed with a bone bruise and missed Monday's contest against the Flyers. He did not skate at today's practice.

"He's still off the ice until he checks with the doctor," said Nolan. "He's making great progress and we're optimistic that he will be ready the next game."



THE ALL-AROUND PLAYER

Richard Park has played in nearly every situation this year. He's been on the fourth line, recently spent time on a scoring line with Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek, played dozens of minutes on the penalty kill and has seen some time on the power play.

What has all this extra time amounted to? A five-game assist streak, including a nifty set-up on Mike Sillinger's goal in Monday's game against Philadelphia. His +2 rating is tied for second best on the team.

"Richard is one of those versatile players that everyone would love to have, and we're lucky enough to have him," said Ted. "He can go from the so-called 4th line or if someone is missing, like Billy Guerin, he can fill in on the top line and do the same job. He's one of those great team guys everyone loves to have."



Check out the Islanders TV Game Day tab for complete coverage of the Islanders' upcoming game against Pittsburgh.










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