Islanders stay focused in midst of swirling trade rumors
You couldn't tell from the atmosphere in the locker room that it was the eve of a day that none of the players have control over the trade deadline. Like it's been since the All-Star break, the practice was upbeat and the players all smiles. Why not, considering the Islanders are currently on a three-game winning streak and have only lost two games in regulation since January 16th.
When asked about his take on the trade deadline distracting the team, Mike Sillinger, who has been part of a number of deals during this time of the season, responded:
"It's our job as professional athletes to worry about what we can control and that's our on-ice performance. Tomorrow is going to come and go. Management is going to do what's best for the team. They're aware that any moves could disturb the chemistry of the team, but if they can better the team, they will."
While the players try to put the trade deadline in the back of their minds, they can think about the success the team is having. After a 4-1 start on their seven-game home stand, the Islanders have accumulated 70 points in 62 games and moved into an eighth-place tie with Montreal, a team on which they have two games in hand. Not too far ahead is seventh-place Carolina with 71 points and Atlanta with 72. The Islanders also have two games in hand on both the Hurricanes and Thrashers.
"It's an important time of the year," said Sillinger." And it's the best we've been playing all year. The feeling is good in the locker room, since we're in the playoff mix. We have a long home stand and we're finding a way to win the one-goal games. Like I've been saying from the beginning of the season, everyone is contributing. Last game, the fourth line stepped up. Every night there is someone different. That's what good teams do, they find ways to win. Ricky has given us a chance to win every game. Everyone is playing their role and contributing in their own way."
Not only have the players been contributing, but so have the fans, whose support has been growing all season. The players are aware of the larger crowds and have been feeding off the energy.
"It's noticeably louder in the building recently," said Freddy Meyer. "It helps when you're in an intense situation and you hear the crowd cheering you on. It has been appreciative. Hopefully, during this stretch-run more and more come out to support us. It means a lot to us, as players, to have the fans come out."
The next opportunity for fans to show their support is tomorrow against the division-rival Philadelphia Flyers. Don't be fooled by the Flyers' position in the standings, they are still a dangerous team with the likes of Simon Gagne. Head Coach Ted Nolan is certainly not taking anyone lightly, including the Flyers.
"They're going to come out hard, especially considering they're a young team," said Nolan. "We have to make sure we match their work ethic. We'll be ready for them."