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Islanders face quick turnaround vs. Lightning

New York, coming off first playoff series win in 23 years, ready to play reigning Eastern Conference champions

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The euphoria of winning a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993 has worn off for the New York Islanders. Their focus has shifted to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Islanders didn't have much time to celebrate anyway, not with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round scheduled for Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Lightning, on the other hand, haven't played since Game 5 of their first-round series win against the Detroit Red Wings on April 21. Whether that quick turnaround will benefit New York remains to be seen.

"You can look at it both those ways," Islanders captain John Tavares said Tuesday before they boarded a flight to Tampa. "Those teams with a lot of rest work on some things, and obviously we're coming off an emotional, intense couple of games. We want carry over that intensity. It can really go either way. Obviously we just want focus on ourselves and what we've got to do, make it tough on them and establish our type of game right away."

The Islanders played consecutive double-overtime games to close out the first round, which they won against the Florida Panthers in six games. They probably would have preferred at least one more day off before Game 1 against Tampa Bay, but coach Jack Capuano is stressing to his players to not worry about things that are out of their hands.

"I'm not going to say one way or the other, because if we don't play well, people will use it as an excuse, that we were exhausted because we played so much hockey and they were well-rested or vice versa," Capuano said. "It's the things you can control and can't control. That's the message to our team. We're in good shape, we're a good conditioned team mentally. You have to find a way, no matter when the game time or what day you're playing."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares ties it in 3rd, wins it in 2OT

New York managed to win a playoff series for the first time in 23 years despite being outplayed 5-on-5 by Florida for much of the series. The Islanders know they'll need to improve in that area against the Lightning, but Tavares realizes nothing is easy this time of year.

"I don't think you expect to dominate teams; you're in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and obviously now we're in the second round," said Tavares, who scored the game-tying and winning goals in the 2-1, Game 6 victory. "We're playing against some very good hockey teams. They're going to make strong pushes, they're going to have momentum, they're going to make plays. They're very talented. It's about how we handle those. I think we want to play with the puck and make it hard on them and make them defend. I think that's obviously our goal."

There were smiles throughout the Islanders locker room after their win Sunday, but they know there is more work to be done. The end game wasn't simply for them to end the hex; they want to give their fans a parade in June.

All the Islanders have to do in the second round is find a way past the defending Eastern Conference champion.

"The expectations are high," said Tavares, who had five goals and four assists in the first round. "We want to keep this thing going. It wasn't just about getting past the first round. A big step in a lot of ways, but we've got a real tough challenge obviously in Tampa [Bay]. They really proved themselves last year, especially the way they've come on the second half of the year and how well they played in the first round. It's going to be a tough challenge, so we have to be at our best."

Left wing Matt Martin said, "We're not satisfied. We want to win the Stanley Cup. We've got to be ready for a very good team in Tampa Bay."

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