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Trotz treating return to Washington with Islanders 'like any other game'

Coach keeping emotions under control with New York contending in Metropolitan Division

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Barry Trotz will walk into Capital One Arena on Friday for the first time since he gathered his belongings seven months ago, ending a memorable four-year chapter of his life that culminated with helping the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 44-year history.

But Trotz, who resigned as Capitals coach June 18, 11 days after winning the Cup, and then was named to same position with the New York Islanders three days later, said he'll only have positive feelings when the teams play each other in Washington (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN1, SNE, NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV).

It will be the second time this season Trotz and the Islanders play the Capitals. Washington (27-14-5), coached by Trotz's former assistant Todd Reirden, won 4-1 at Barclays Center on Nov. 26.

"I'm going to have a lot of good emotions. The four years I spent there were tremendous," said Trotz, who went 205-89-34 as Capitals coach. "We won a lot of games. I have a lot of friends in that dressing room and I have a lot of friends away from the dressing room.

"It'll be fine. I think the first time you play them … it was here, and that was closure. I'm an Islander. I appreciate the ownership and the fans and the players, the trainers, coaches, all the people that were involved and the success that we had together.

"We're going to try go in there and get two points. I'm going to treat it like any other game."

Video: How Trotz's presence has elevated Islanders' defense

Perhaps the most impressive part of Trotz's ability to deliver the Stanley Cup in Washington last season was the fact he did so in the final year of his contract, completely unaware of what the future had in store. But despite never getting past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first three seasons with Washington, he remained focused on getting the Capitals over the hump. 

"I think more than anything, I wanted to get it done," Trotz said. "We wanted to win a Cup there. I chased it for a while. I was in a good place all year. I wasn't worried about that. I was more focused on that group getting over the scars of the playoff performances or the disappointments, I guess, is probably the best way [to say it]."

Despite losing center John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 1, the Islanders (27-15-4) are third in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Capitals. They have gone from allowing the most goals in the NHL last season (293) to the fewest (116) this season.

"Going in, you really don't know," Trotz said. "I was more worried about 'can we fix the defending part?' Yes. I didn't know where our goaltending would be. I didn't know where a lot of things were. 

"I thought we could be in the mix, no question. I don't know how deep I thought we could go in the mix, because you just don't know. There's a lot of unknowns, but I did know this: if you play a team game, teams that play well as a group and rely on the strength of the group, you have a chance to do pretty good things."

Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello have instilled an all-hands-on-deck approach without Tavares. Jordan Eberle and Valtteri Filppula each scored his 10th goal of the season in New York's 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues at Barclays Center on Tuesday, giving the Islanders eight forwards who have reached double digits. 

Video: STL@NYI: Filppula rips shot stick side for OT winner

"I think we've surprised a lot of people with how much depth scoring we've had," said center Mathew Barzal, who leads New York in points (43) and assists (30). "I think that's honestly just because this coaching staff's given everybody a chance. Everyone's playing 15-18 minutes a night; some nights I'm 15, some nights Casey's (Cizikas) 15, or he's 20, I'm 20. 

"In years past, I think it's been mainly the load put on one line. But this year, it's very balanced. The power play's been going lately, so I think that's good special teams and good four lines have been rolling. That's the recipe." 

Filppula, who won the Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and reached the Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015, credited Trotz's ability to have the Islanders ready for what to expect on any given night as a big reason for their success.

"I think we prepare really well against teams; we know what they do, we know what we want to do against teams, and I think that's where everything starts," Filppula said. "Getting guys motivated to play every night … it's a long year. Some games feel like it's hard to get up for, but I think he's doing a good job of getting us ready.

"It's another big game. We're chasing some teams ahead of us. We've had a good run, so hopefully we can keep that going. But I'm sure it would mean a lot to him to get the win."

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