The Islanders have earned themselves a rather rare position after cleanly sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs - they will wind up having a week off until the next puck is dropped for the second round.
Rest in the playoffs is a luxury and the Isles are ensuring they take advantage of the time to prepare, get healthy and remain sharp.
"You get them ready and you get them prepared as best as you can," Head Coach Barry Trotz said of the extra time. "I've won championships [1994 Calder Cup] with having a 10-day rest… It's not a negative. There are teams that might go seven games and they're going to have to play the next day... We're looking at it as an advantage. We're getting some people healthy. We're going to practice the right way. We're going to do some scrimmages. We'll be prepared."
After having two full-days off following their sweep, the Isles returned to the ice at Northwell Health Ice Center on Friday, refreshed and recharged, with three notable absences: Johnny Boychuk, Cal Clutterbuck and Scott Mayfield.
Video: Practice Update 4/19: Lou Lamoriello
Boychuk will miss three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury, while Clutterbuck and Mayfield were given a maintenance days to rest up.
"[Cal] Clutterbuck and [Scott] Mayfield are just maintenance days," Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. "While we've got this time, we're going to give them a couple more days off. They're fine. They'll be back whenever the trainer feels it's the right thing."
To ensure the Isles are ready to go against the winner of the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes series, which is tied 2-2, the Isles wasted no time in their first practice back. The team worked on breakouts, odd-man rushes, one-on-one drills and wrapped up practice with intense, whistle-to-whistle full-ice laps.
"Two days off felt really good during the two days off," goaltender Robin Lehner said. "It felt really bad this morning, but it's going to help us in the long run. [The extra time is] not a bad thing. It honestly isn't. We get to keep working on our stuff in practice and try to stay sharp."
While the rest is much-needed, 15-year NHL veteran Valtteri Filppula understands the importance of staying in game-shape as much as possible. The 35-year-old has played in 162 playoff games to-date and can attest to the necessary adjustment come game time.
"It helps to get the rest," Filppula said. "You play pretty much every other day so all the rest you're going to get should help you. [I'm] happy about that. We've just got to be able to take advantage. Sometimes it's tough the first couple of games back, you haven't played in a while and you're trying to get back and playing at a good level. That's something that we've got to be prepared for."
Mathew Barzal said the Isles will plan to keep the pace as high as possible during their practices.
"Of course, the intensity of a game is hard to duplicate, but we've got guys in practice that play hard," Barzal said. "They're battling hard and getting into it. It keeps the tempo up and that kind of playoff intensity up a little bit. [I've been] watching hockey every night and watching the other guys you still see how hard it is. It's not going to get any easier."
Video: Practice Update 4/19: Robin Lehner
With the extra time on deck, the Islanders are also benefiting from being able tune in and watch their potential opponents in real-time. The anticipation of the who, where and when of their next game is lingering, but the mood within the Islanders locker room remains focused and excited for what's to come in their playoff run.
"Obviously, we don't know who we're going to play against yet," Filppula said. "But we know whoever it's going to be it's going to be a really tough series again. I think it's a good sign that everybody I feel like in this group is ready to go. Now, it's just exciting and waiting to see who we get to play."