Flying from Long Island to Boston, the plane is only in the air for 45 minutes, shorter than three full periods of hockey. Something the players have admitted, is that they did not play a full 60 minutes of hockey on Sunday when the Flyers came to town. A full 60 minutes of hockey is what going to be key to an Islanders victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night at the TD Garden.
“These guys are in the best league in the world so they have to believe in one another,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “They have to come together a little bit more and believe and trust in each other, but it takes 60 minutes. Whether a guy is going to play 2 minutes throughout the course of a game or a guy that gets 20 minutes over the course of a game, everybody has to pull their weight and elevate their game a little bit more.”
After a grueling day of practice on Tuesday, where players went through a double session – on ice and off - the team got back to somewhat of a normal practice day on Wednesday. The power play was on the top of the team’s agenda as they have failed on their last 36 attempts and have not scored with a man advantage since Nov. 6.
“We tried out some different units today,” Moulson said about the team’s work on the power play. “We want to make sure we are working hard and working to get open. We were more or less just figuring out the chemistry, knowing where guys are, especially when you put two new guys on the power play. We have worked on that for the last two weeks and tweaked it today. It seems to be working pretty well.”
Moulson knows that facing the Bruins will be a challenge as they are fifth overall in the Eastern Conference with 33 points and are fourth in the League on the penalty kill with 86.7 percent.
“They have been a good team for the last couple years,” Moulson said. “They added some new guys through the draft and trade this summer and got better, but we seem to play them hard in Boston. Hopefully we bring that intensity into the game on Thursday, I’m sure we will. We are continuing to work hard and get better.”
The Islanders defense has suffered their fair share of injuries. Having Andrew MacDonald
and Jack Hillen back in the lineup has been an important turning point, but the Bruins have also had good news on the injury front. Skilled centerman Marc Savard returned for the Bruins after he sustained a concussion last season.
“For us getting some guys back is key,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “Boston got some skill guys back too, but right now where we are, our guys are prepared. Our guys know what Boston is going to do but we need to worry about ourselves and how we play the game in all three zones. If we do the intangibles and we control our work ethic, then we will give ourselves a chance to win.”
Most importantly, the Islanders need to find a way to score. Whether Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask will get the nod for the Bruins, the Islanders will be up against some tough opposition. In 19 games this season, Thomas has recorded a 1.49 goals against average and a .955 save percentage for a 14-2-2 record, is in the running for the Vezina Trophy and the most valuable player. In the Islanders third game of the 2009-10 season, Rask made 35 saves for the Bruins earning a 4-3 shootout victory over the Islanders.
“We have to continue to use the whole zone and continue to get our defensemen actively involved in the offensive zone. That is a big part of the game,” Capuano said. “We want to try and get 10 to 15 shots per night from our defenseman. If we are not shooting on the net, then we need to be shooting off of the side of the net and we’ve got traffic.”
He continued: “Any way that we can generate offense is key. I felt like we worked on our offensive zone play and our deep defensive zone coverage (these past few days), so hopefully we can build on this. Right now it really comes down to work ethic, they have got to believe. We need more emotion on the bench. The intangibles are the big things.”
While the last two days of practice have been grueling and mentally tough, the Islanders young team is ready to play.
“I feel mentally strong,” Moulson said. “We had a hard day yesterday and the day before. We will be ready for the game Thursday, bringing the intensity we have showed the last two days. Maybe that is what we have been missing.”