The Islanders hopped on a plane Wednesday afternoon to begin their first road trip of the season. With five games in eight nights beginning Thursday in Toronto, the team certainly has a challenge in front of them. Head Coach Jack Capuano thinks the trip should give the team, which has nine new players on the roster, its first chance to bond as a group.
“This is perfect timing for us,” Capuano said. “I think any time, early in the season especially, when you can get on the road and bond a little bit, the guys come together. We’re going into some tough buildings, but with the new faces, this should be a good trip for us.”
The Islanders are 1-1-0 through two games (both at home) this season. The upcoming trip is one of two five-game trips the team will take this year, with the other one coming in April when they close out the 2012-13 campaign. For center Keith Aucoin, who the Islanders claimed off waivers in the middle of Training Camp, the trip will provide an opportunity to get to know his new teammates.
“A lot of guys don’t know each other that well yet after just a week of Training Camp,” Aucoin said. “It’ll be good to get away, find out who your roommate is, go to dinner with the guys on this team and get to know them. Especially in a shortened season, every team needs to get to know each other right away.”
The Islanders acquired four players during training camp via the waiver wire. Forward Matt Moulson believes that even though some of the players are still getting used to their new surroundings, the team has come a long way.
“I think we’re a pretty close team already, but whenever you go on these road trips, it’s good to get away with the team,” Moulson said. “You spend a lot of time with the guys when you’re on the road. It’s your family away from home.”
Following Thursday’s game in Toronto, the team will fly to Boston for a Friday night contest against the Bruins. After that, they cross the border for Sunday’s game in Winnipeg, then return to the US for a game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday before concluding the trip in New Jersey on Thursday.
Islanders captain Mark Streit knows that this is a big test for the club, because solid performances on the trip could set the tone for a strong season.
“It’s a great way to start a road trip,” Streit said of playing the Maple Leafs and Bruins on back-to-back nights. “We have a great team, but we have to make sure we play 60-minute hockey and follow through. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but I’m looking forward to it and I think the team is as well.”
Much has been said since the start of Training Camp about the importance of getting off to a good start. With such a long trip this early in the schedule, it would seem like the deck is stacked against the Islanders. Capuano prefers not to make those excuses though.
“People talk about a sprint and you have to get off to a good start, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that every night is a battle for every single team,” Capuano said. “On any given night, any team can win. We’ve just got to stick to our game plan, and come with the same energy level and the same attitude we came with during our win Monday against Tampa.”
When asked what had to happen over the next five games for this trip to be considered a success, Capuano elected to think less in terms of point totals and more in terms of the team’s effort on the ice.
“Their work ethic and determination and their willingness to win hockey games will make this a successful trip,” Capuano said. “I thought we did a good job against Tampa – we had 18 shots in the first period. We continued our attack the way we wanted to play. We’re a team that has to try to play in the offensive zone and grind teams out as the game goes on. We have to be a little bit more disciplined in certain areas of our game. I tell the players, ‘just win your shift. Don’t worry about anything else.’”
The Maple Leafs play at Pittsburgh Wednesday before heading home to Toronto. Thursday’s puck drop at the Air Canada Centre is slated for 7 p.m.
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