The New York Islanders are ready to say goodbye to the preseason and hello to games that matter.
“We’re really anxious to get the season going and we want to make it a memorable one,” said forward Anders Lee, who had 15 goals last season before missing the final few months with a broken leg. “I know personally I can’t wait to get back out there and start scoring real goals again.
“This 26-game preseason is just too long.”
Coming off their first trip to the second round of the playoffs in 23 years, the Islanders are looking forward to establishing themselves as a true Stanley Cup contender this season. But before they can do that, they know they need to get out to a good start when the games actually count. For them, that means games in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose this week.
“It’s tough to start the season with a California road trip but now that the preseason is over, we’re going out there with a clean slate,” said captain John Tavares, who led the team with 33 goals and 70 points last season. “We want to get off on the right foot and compete hard against the best in their barns starting now.”
With several new additions in free agents Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera and rookie Anthony Beauviller, the coaches have been experimenting with different line combinations and strategies during the preseason. After two months of practice, they think they’ve found the right chemistry that will help the Islanders hit the ground running with the exhibition schedule done.
“I like our mix a lot. The coaching staff can see the guys who complement each other real well,” said coach Jack Capuano. “We’ve been using these preseason games to find consistency and we feel everybody knows their role and are where they need to be right now.”
The NHL’s Metropolitan Division looks to be a tight one this season, with the defending champion Penguins, the hopeful Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, up-and-coming clubs in Philadelphia and Carolina and rebuilding but dangerous teams in Columbus and New Jersey. If the Islanders want to make real noise, they can’t fall too far behind early.
“It’s tough to play catch up so we need to get out in front of the pack right away,” Capuano said. “Throwing away points in the regular season isn’t something you can do in this league. If we want to be a playoff team, we have to be one from start to finish.
“Thank God the preseason is finally over.”
Capuano said he expects the Islanders to be near the top of the division by February, during the league’s Christmas break.
This is fake, unfortunately. The walking nightmare of this Islanders season is very real.