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Islanders use extended break to prepare for second round of playoffs

Could go more than one week between games after sweeping Penguins

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Barry Trotz has plenty of experience coaching in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 117 games worth, to be exact. But this year he's dealing with something new: a sweep and an extended break.

After coaching the New York Islanders to a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round -- the first sweep for Trotz in his 20 NHL seasons -- they are likely to go a week or more before playing again.

The Islanders took a second day off after winning the best-of-7 series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. They will get back to work Friday.

"Right now as coaches, we're doing a little bit of the practice planning," Trotz said Thursday.

That's all the Islanders can do for now because they are waiting to see who they'll play in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Their opponent will be the winner of the series between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. Washington led the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Game 4 at Carolina on Thursday.

Video: Islanders advance with sweep of Penguins

The storyline is well known by now: Trotz was named coach of the Islanders in June, two weeks after helping the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup championship. He obviously has a good idea what to expect from his former team should Washington become New York's second-round opponent, so he admitted he'll be scouting Carolina more closely Thursday.

New York split four regular-season games with Washington; they won three of four against Carolina.

"I know Washington fairly well," Trotz said with a grin. "Honestly, I'm weighted right now to watching Carolina a little bit more because I don't know them quite as well. I'm preparing for both. It's double the work, but I think it's actually a good exercise. It keeps you sharp on both sides."

It's been seven years since Trotz has gone through a layoff even remotely as long as this one; when he was coaching the Nashville Predators, they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in five games to win a 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Predators had a week off between the first and second rounds seven years ago; the Islanders could be off more than a week if the Capitals-Hurricanes series goes seven games.

Trotz won a playoff series in five games last season with the Capitals, but that was the 2018 Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. It was the only time in his four seasons with Washington that the Capitals won a series in fewer than six games.

"Over the years, we've had everything from lockouts to schedule breaks to things that happen during the season where you don't play for eight or 10 days," Trotz said. "In the minors (with Portland of the American Hockey League in 1994), we won and there was 10 days between us being in the semifinals and being in the finals. We had a 10-day break, so I've had some of this in different types of cycles."

The hope is the extended break will allow Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk and right wing Cal Clutterbuck time to heal before the second round begins. Each sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period of Game 4 against the Penguins, and Trotz did not have an update on either Thursday.

"We've got some time here," he said. "The good of it is that some guys, the bumps and bruises, the nagging injuries that come during the playoffs, we've got a little bit of time. That's the positive.

"The negative is you've got maybe a lot of time where you lose a little bit of sharpness, you lose a little bit of the focus, whatever. So the goal for us right now is to have a real specific plan."

Trotz did not seem too concerned about his players losing focus, especially after seeing their calm demeanor following the sweep of the Penguins. They know they haven't won anything yet.

"They've been pretty focused and businesslike all year," Trotz said. "From my standpoint, they didn't climb the mountain, so they're not acting like they climbed the mountain.

"They know that the next task will get harder and harder. I think they're just focusing on getting some rest, getting back and getting prepared and drop a puck in the next series. It'll be a battle again, and hopefully we have everything in place and we're ready to go."

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