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Will Veteran Leadership Save Islanders?

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New York Islanders Cal Clutterbuck and Zdeno Chara addressing the media after Monday's practice

The New York Islanders entered the 2021-22 campaign as the oldest team in hockey with an average age of 29.08. While there are a few outliers in there, with defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene, the veteran presence in the locker room has allowed the Islanders to handle the long breaks in between games.

Getting Healthier: Nelson and Palmieri Join Islanders for Practice

With the 13-game road trip to start the regular season and the countless games postponed, the Islanders struggled to get into a rhythm. Add to that, injuries to two top-six forwards in Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, defenseman Ryan Pulock, and the countless players that have made their way into COVID-19 protocol, the obstacles have seemed endless.

In their latest return following another break in the schedule, there was concern that rust would play a factor. However, the Islanders showed very little rust in their two latest wins, last Thursday over the Buffalo Sabres and Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.

“I think it helps that we got, maybe, a little older team.” forward Cal Clutterbuck said following practice on Monday. “I think we know that when you have the opportunity to get a couple of practices in coming off a break like that, if you can really focus on what you’re doing and put some effort into it, it just allows you to be prepared when the puck does drop.”

“So I think just the experience with the age of the group and having been around knowing the situation helps.”

This season, the Islanders have had three breaks of four or more days between games. Their first games after these breaks have seen the Islanders collect points in each contest, with two wins and an overtime loss.

And while the Islanders wait for their next scheduled game due to their postponed road trip, how are they supposed to build on the momentum they have picked up after winning two straight and points in four of the last five games?

“You need to practice hard,” Clutterbuck said. “You need to pay attention to the detail that is required to string points and games together like we have.”

“…And honestly, with the amounts of stops and starts and guys that have been out of the lineup, this is probably the first time that we’ve had a bunch of time here to really hammer in those habits. I think if you spend time hammering away at those habits and just getting used to getting up every day and doing things the right way, then the results kind of take care of themselves. ”

Over the next 10 days, practicing hard and getting as healthy as possible will put the Islanders in a position to continue their strong play.

The Islanders’ schedule resumes on Jan. 13 against the New Jersey Devils at UBS Arena.

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