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New York Islanders

A Deserved Break For Islanders Is One They Can’t Afford



AP Photo/John Munson

Elmont, NY– As the NHL schedule hits pause for the All-Star break, teams and players around the league get a deserved rest from the grind of the season.

But for the New York Islanders, the break isn’t one that they can afford.

With 52 points and a record of 20-17-12, the Islanders sit four points back of a playoff spot in their division and five back of the final spot in the Eastern Conference. After going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, the Islanders are circling the drain and are at risk of falling out of the race altogether.

Last week, new head coach Patrick Roy was brought in to light a fire under the team in hopes of saving the season. But as much as Roy has done to turn around the Islanders’ mindset, the results have stayed the same as they went 1-2-1 in their final games before the break.

Now, of course, progress can’t be made overnight. Roy needs time to implement his system, and the players need time to adjust to it.

But with 33 games remaining in their schedule, there isn’t much time remaining for the Islanders to do so, and a week-long pause won’t do them many favors.

Nonetheless, the break is out of the team’s hands as they take an earned respite from hockey and get time with their families.

“A couple of guys are banged up, so rest is always nice,” Brock Nelson said following the team’s overtime loss to Florida on Saturday. “The schedule has been every other day for a while, and there’s also been a lot of travel for us in the last month and a half or so. To have more days with Patrick to be familiar would be nice, but at the same time, rest is also good.”

The break will also provide Roy a chance to settle into the area after a whirlwind of a first week as the head coach of the Islanders.

“I’m fresh,” Roy said. “I’d be happy to play tomorrow or the next day. It’s nice to have the break for the players, the staff, and everyone, and be ready when we come back. I’m going to use this this time to be on Long Island and enjoy it, learn more about it and find myself a place to stay.”

The hope is that over the break, the Islanders can refocus and come back rejuvenated as they did last season when they battled down the stretch and fought their way into the playoffs.

“Everybody in this room remembers how we played down the stretch last year and found a way into the playoffs,” Kyle Palmieri said. “We’ll get ourselves physically and mentally geared up for that. We believe in each other, and we believe that we can make a run here.”

But things are different now than they were a year ago.

Firstly, the Islanders hadn’t just undergone a major coaching change.

Secondly –and maybe even more importantly–when the Islanders hit the All-Star break at this point last season, they did so with momentum after a pair of wins. Now, they’re stumbling into the break following three straight losses.

When the Islanders return on Feb. 5 against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, they need to start piling up wins because moral victories don’t count in the NHL standings.

“We got to play really good hockey and string a couple [wins] together,” Palmieri said. “It might not happen the first night, but we just got to get the ball rolling.”




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