MONTREAL (CP) - While Ryan Smyth is enjoying the fierce playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference with the New York Islanders, things couldn't be going much worse for the Edmonton Oilers.
Smyth is well aware that his former team has lost eight straight games, the last seven coming after he was traded to the Islanders at the Feb. 27 deadline, and he feels for the friends he left behind in Edmonton.
"You hope the best for the guys," Smyth said Tuesday
before his Islanders lost 5-3 to the Montreal Canadiens. "There's no question they're fighting the injury bug and playing with a lot of young guys and they're learning about the process of playing in the NHL.
"I just hope for the guys' sake that they can turn things around there."
Smyth's importance to the Oilers became obvious as the team has managed only five goals in the seven losses since the trade. He's becoming just as integral to an Islanders team seeking a return to the playoffs after missing out last year.
The Islanders are 3-2-2 since acquiring Smyth, extending a run in which they've collected at least a point in 19 of their last 23 games.
"We've got a great team in here, it's just a matter of making the post-season and excelling from there," Smyth said. "You just never know until you get in."
Smyth had never played for anyone except the Oilers but he says it didn't take long for him to feel welcome in the Islanders dressing room, especially since he had former teammates Marc-Andre Bergeron, Tom Poti and Miroslav Satan along with good friend Mike Sillinger to help the transition.
"It makes it a lot easier when you walk into a locker-room and they make you feel welcome," Smyth said.
Smyth has two goal and three assists in his first six games with his new team, but more importantly his acquisition has made the Islanders believers that they can be contenders come playoff time.
"It just shows how management and the owner want to put a winning product on Long Island and this gives us a legitimate chance to go closer to our goal and that's to get to the playoffs," said Islanders scoring leader Jason Blake. "Once you get into the playoffs, you never know what can happen."
Perhaps no one in the Islanders locker-room has benefited more from Smyth's arrival than Blake, who was the subject of rampant trade rumours right up until the deadline. In fact, Blake says that when he first heard the news of the Smyth trade he thought his days were numbered on Long Island.
"When we got Ryan Smyth at the deadline, I thought maybe I was gone," Blake said. "I thought of a lot of different scenarios."
Once the deadline passed, Isles coach Ted Nolan says Blake became a different player, and the numbers prove it. He had three goals and an assist in a 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 27, and in the five games Blake has had Smyth playing on the opposite wing he has two goals and three assists.
"He's a pretty intense individual," Nolan said. "Since the trade deadline and since we added Ryan Smyth, he comes to the rink with a smile on his face and I think he feels the burden has been lifted."