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Home Sweet Home

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

Timely goal scoring, stingy defense, solid goaltending and passionate fans was the recipe for the Islanders' impressive run at the Nassau Coliseum over the past 11 days.


With a six-game homestand staring them in the face, a lineup filled with youngsters played inspired hockey, earning points in five of six games and nine out of a possible 12 points. The Islanders finished the homestand 4-1-1, including wins over playoff-hopeful Buffalo, Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey and Western foes Colorado and Phoenix.
 
"We've had great fan support and some pretty good crowds," said Josh Bailey. "That contributed to our success. It's always good when you get a good crowd. They're always loud out here, which makes you go that much harder."
 
Due to injuries and the trade of Bill Guerin, the Islanders were forced to dress lineups that hardly resembled the team from October. A total of nine rookie skaters played during the six-game homestand. The result was a brand of up-tempo hockey that kept the opposition on their toes. Over the six games, the Islanders out-scored their opponents 22-16, including a season-high seven goals against the usually defensive Devils on Saturday.
 
"Our guys have been real committed to playing for each other and playing our system," said Head Coach Scott Gordon. "They've had a great work ethic and a great attitude. We've been pretty consistent lately. Sometimes we'll make some youthful mistakes, but we'll make up for it with effort."
 
A few players of note used the homestand to raise their game. Most notably were forward Sean Bergenheim and goaltender Yann Danis.

Bergenheim recorded six goals in the six games, including a hat trick against the Devils. He is now tied for the team-lead in goals with Kyle Okposo and the injured Trent Hunter with 14.
 
Danis went a stellar 3-1-0 in four games on the homestand, with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. His wins included a 2-0 shutout over Buffalo on February 28 and a 40-save effort in a 3-2 win against Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes on Sunday.
 
Despite the fact that the Islanders started so many rookies, the vets came up big, too.

Dean McAmmond, Radek Martinek and Mark Streit were the only players in the lineup during the homestand who are 30-years-of-age or older. The three combined for two goals and seven assists in the six games.
 
"Mark Streit was exceptional tonight," said Gordon, following the Islanders' 3-2 win over Phoenix on Sunday. "Dean McAmmond has come in and played far ahead of expectations. To come in here and play with the same enthusiasm as the younger guys is great for us."
 
A total of 11 players saw ice time during the six-game span that are 25 years or younger. And many of them contributed on the scoresheet.
 
"We have a lot of leaders on this team," said Kyle Okposo. "We obviously don't have a lot of vets in the lineup, but different guys are doing their things and coming into their own. Some guys lead by example and some guys are more vocal. We have a good mix of both on this team."
 
In the six games, Okposo recorded two goals and an assist, including the game-winner, Josh Bailey produced a goal and two assists, Blake Comeau has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak and Jeff Tambellini has scored three goals and two assists in the past four games.
 
"Tambellini is starting to find his way around the net," said Gordon. "His consistency with finishing checks, getting in front of the net and in right places has resulted in him getting more opportunities."
 
The Islanders' winning ways at home improved their record at the Coliseum to 16-14-5 on the season. With the six-game homestand behind them, they take to the road for the next six games where they hope to find the same success they had in front of the home crowd. They begin with a matchup against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, tonight at 7:30 pm.

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