As the Islanders retreated home for their respective holiday family time, hopefully they all -- Scott Gordon in particular -- found occasion to chill and recharge. The division has run away from them, and the team is a weekend of losses (to the Maple Leafs and Sabres) away from tying the franchise record for a losing streak. (The record is 12, reached twice: in inaugural 1973, and in that fateful end of an era 1988). Should they tie that mark, it will be up to the archrival Rangers to break that record for them Monday. There's always something to play for.
All the complications of being caught in between eras have come front and center. The injuries, the ice time, the system debate -- so many things that would be soothed though by no means cured by a simple win.
Around the dinner table or behind family meeting doors, perhaps veterans like Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and Mike Sillinger may have broached the subject of moving again as UFA-to-be. Youngsters like Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo may have heard, "We're just proud of you, son. Things will get better. There's a long career ahead of you."
The playoffs may be a laughable never-was; the lottery pick, a taboo that must be acquired. But there is still much to play for, much intrigue to watch: Jobs, roster spots, contracts, career futures on the line.
Mike Comrie will have to score if he ever wants another $4-million deal this side of Russia -- and it'd be preferred if he doesn't shake off undisciplined, back-breaking, power play-squandering retaliatory penalties with a flippant "We don't call the penalties" line.
Friday's foe, the Maple Leafs, are also in a rebuilding orientation, but it hasn't been quite as miserable this season, even under the infernal hockey-mad Toronto lens. In their last four games, the Leafs have beaten Pittsburgh 7-3 and Atlanta 6-2, but lost to Boston 8-5 and Dallas 8-2. You figure them out. One thing seems certain: there will be goals.