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Capuano keeping Islanders' focus on Bruins

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Fans of the New York Islanders already are getting excited about their team's showdown with the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday in a 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

But for coach Jack Capuano and his players, there's still the matter of a game against the Boston Bruins on Monday to deal with before they can turn their attention to the outdoor game.

Capuano admitted after his team's morning skate at Nassau Coliseum that while the Islanders are keeping their focus on Boston, it's tough not to be cognizant that their next game will be a franchise first.

He also admitted he had seen some of the Rangers' 7-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils at the Stadium on Sunday.

"I watched a little bit of it," he said. "It's 200-by-85 [rink size]. To me it's the atmosphere. It's the crowd. It's Yankee Stadium. It's the Bronx. You're in one of the greatest venues in the world. It was pretty amazing what the NHL did. As far as the hockey goes, it was a big two points for both teams. I thought the ice was great. It was a fast-paced game."

For now Capuano has worked to make sure his team is focused on the Bruins, not the spectacle that will follow.

"Our main focus, right from the start today in all of our meetings … I haven't even talked about that game [Sunday]," he said. "That's nothing I want to do. This is the task at hand. Our focus should be on the Boston Bruins and it has to be. That's what we have to make sure we understand. I'm sure the guys watched [the game Sunday]; they know eventually we're going to be there. But right now our mind and our focus is at 7 o'clock [Monday]."

The outdoor game is a first for Capuano and his team, so he went to his opposite number, Bruins coach Claude Julien, for some advice on how to handle a unique situation.

"I've talked to some coaches a while ago, and even recently. I even talked to Claude [Sunday]. He was in Edmonton [for the 2003 Heritage Classic] and Fenway Park [for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic]," Capuano said. "Everybody has the same elements they have to battle through. It's not going to be perfect. It's going to be like playing outdoors when you were a kid and that's what it's all about. The NHL has done a great job. It's the same for both teams."

When asked about what he had told Capuano, Julien drew smiles when he said he wouldn't repeat everything because, "the conversation was personal." But he did offer his thoughts on how he prepared his team to play -- and win -- outdoors. His Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime at Fenway Park in Boston.

"I thought it was important for the players to enjoy the environment and really soak it in because it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Julien said. "But it's amazing how once the puck is dropped everybody reels back in to, 'This is a real game,' and you have to play it.

"I don't think you have to put so much emphasis on staying focused on the game while you're at a practice or a morning skate. When it comes time for the game the guys are ready to play. It's just totally enjoy the moment. That's what we did. And when it comes time to play the game, it's always more enjoyable to talk about that game after you've won it versus losing it. I don't think it's as complicated as people make it out to be. You've just got to deal with the weather. And both teams have to deal with that."

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