After playing 10 games in 17 days, the New York Islanders got some rare rest with a three-day break between games before facing the New York Rangers on Wednesday night (8 p.m., NBCSN).
The break has allowed the Islanders, who are 4-4-2 in their last 10 but 1-3-1 in their last five, to regroup, recharge and take stock of their situation as the stretch drive continues.
"Every game is being approached as the biggest game for us," Travis Hamonic said on Monday. "We know what's at stake and there's a handful of teams really battling for that last spot. You can't overlook your own opportunities when you're in a race this tight. You can't rely on any other team doing you favors."
As of Tuesday morning, the Islanders (78 points) are three points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs (81 points) for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay (77 points) lurks one back of the Islanders and all three teams have played 71 games.
The Islanders have been up front about looking at the standings since Doug Weight became interim head coach in January and the leadership corps said everyone knows what's at stake and is focused.
"It's all around you, it's all that gets talked about," alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck said. "Everyone is well aware of where we're at and where we need to be."
Of the Islanders' remaining 11 games, six are against teams currently in the postseason. The toughest stretch appears to be the next three games, as the Islanders play the Rangers, Penguins and Bruins - all teams currently in the postseason - in a span of four nights. The Rangers and Penguins games are on the road, and while the Bruins game is at home, the Islanders will be playing the second half of a back-to-back.
"We realize it's a huge week and we're excited about the challenge," Weight told reporters Tuesday. "I feel really good talking to some players and our leaders and some young guys. I feel really good about our team. We had a couple really good practices, we got our energy and we're focused and have to go make hay on the ice."
The Maple Leafs play five playoff-bound teams in their final 11 games, including Washington, Pittsburgh and a pair of games against Columbus. The Lightning play six playoff-bound teams before the end of the season, including a key game against the Maple Leafs on April 6.
Bailey Sick, Likely To Play Wednesday:
Josh Bailey was absent at Tuesday's practice with an illness, but Weight said the Islanders winger was likely to play on Wednesday against the Rangers. Alan Quine practiced in Bailey's spot.
Weight shuffled his lines at Monday's practice and stuck with the same group at Tuesday's practice - sans Bailey. The coach said he'll start these new-look lines against the Rangers on Wednesday, assuming Bailey is good to go.
|LEFT WING ||CENTER ||RIGHT WING |
|ANDREW LADD ||JOHN TAVARES ||JOSH BAILEY |
|ANDERS LEE ||ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER ||JOSH HO-SANG |
|BROCK NELSON ||RYAN STROME ||JASON CHIMERA |
|NIKOLAY KULEMIN ||CASEY CIZIKAS ||CAL CLUTTERBUCK |
|STEPHEN GIONTA ||ALAN QUINE ||SHANE PRINCE |