New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano knows the standings can change in a hurry during the lockout-shortened season, which is why he's focusing on the positives rather than the negatives at this point.
He didn't have much to complain about the last time his club faced the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Islanders look to shake off two losses that began their seven-game homestand on Thursday night versus Toronto, which expects to have James Reimer in net for the first time in more than two weeks.
After dropping nine of its last 13 contests, New York (8-11-1) is outside the Eastern Conference's top eight as the halfway point of the 48-game season nears.
Capuano, though, believes his club has been taking steps in the right direction recently, even during Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Boston.
"There's a lot of hockey left to play," Capuano said. "We have to compete like we played (Tuesday) every night. The effort was there.
"There are no easy games. We really have to learn to win close games."
"We just have to keep pushing forward," forward Josh Bailey said. "It's pretty easy to get down on yourselves and frustrated, like we are, but we have to find a way to come to the rink (Thursday) and put this loss behind us and look forward to the next game."
John Tavares is tied for second in the league with 13 goals but went scoreless for the first time in three games Tuesday. He had two assists while Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson each scored twice as the Islanders set a season-high for goals scored in a 7-4 win at Toronto on Jan. 24.
Tavares has a goal in each of the last two home meetings with the Maple Leafs, who are coming off a 5-2 loss to Montreal on Wednesday. Frazer McLaren and Clarke MacArthur each had a goal for Toronto (12-9-0).
"We were flat, flat, flat, flat," coach Randy Carlyle said. "It looked like at times that we were playing in our boots and they were playing on skates."
The Leafs are among the league leaders with 59 non-shootout goals, but Carlyle said the offense was stagnant and failed to capitalize on prime chances.
Mikhail Grabovski couldn't convert a penalty shot midway through the second period before Toronto allowed three unanswered goals in the third.
"We just didn't get anything going for ourselves," Carlyle said. "I don't think there's any way to paint it pretty."
Ben Scrivens made 35 saves in his eighth consecutive start, but Reimer is expected to be back in net Thursday for the first time since hurting his knee in a win over Philadelphia on Feb. 11.
Reimer has won his last three starts with a 1.25 goals-against average. He's 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA in five career starts versus the Islanders.
It's unclear who will be in net for New York, though Nabokov is just 2-2-0 with a 3.26 GAA in four starts versus the Leafs since joining the Islanders last season.
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