Winning Wisdom

After injury, Brian Rolston and Jay Pandolfo are nearing their return

Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 6:14 PM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Winning Wisdom
There is good news coming out of Long Island on the injury front. Brian Rolston (concussion) and Jay Pandolfo (broken foot) are close to returning to the Islanders lineup. Rolston has been cleared by team doctors and Pandolfo is day-to-day.

As both wingers prepare for their return, they’re veteran leadership will come in to play. With the Islanders on a three-game losing streak, falling to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings Monday night, there’s comfort knowing that the team will ultimately build off their short comings and learn what it takes to win.

However, winning is mental according to the Islanders veterans. Pandolfo and Rolston have both played in the National Hockey League for more than a combined 30 years and have seen teams battle through the grind of an 82-game season at their highest and lowest points.

Jay Pandolfo and Ryan Callahan prepare for a face off during the third period at Nassau Coliseum on November 15, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Pandolfo has first-hand knowledge of the winning mentality, raising the Stanley Cup high above his head with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and again in 2003.

“Every night, you feel like you’re going to have a chance to win instead of wondering if we’re going to have a good game and how we’re going to play,” Pandolfo said of those winning teams in New Jersey.

Rolston understands the opposite end of the spectrum. Though he’s played in 12 playoff series during his career, he’s only made it past the first round once. He’s also been on three teams that have ranked at the bottom of their respective division by seasons’ end. However, every year after that losing season, those teams made a playoff push.

When that tough stretch occurs, Rolston said it’s important to tackle it before it is too late.

“You can’t get down as a team. It’s very difficult. It’s easier said than done, but you have to stay positive and feel that you’re going to go out and win a hockey game,” Rolston said. “When you start losing over and over, you don’t feel like you can win and you start looking lethargic on the ice. And it builds. You have to stop it. If you don’t stop it, it snowballs.”

But changing the current situation can’t happen with the play of just one individual.

“The thing is individual success is going to come with team success,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “You can’t travel with the team on your back and try to do too much because if you do that, it’s going to end up costing you a goal and that goal can be the difference in winning or losing that game.”

Brian Rolston skates against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum on November 25, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
After all, it’s a team game and it takes a full-team effort for a full 60 minutes to win a hockey game at the highest level. So when Capuano held a higher-paced practice for his 22-man squad for a full hour on Tuesday, it started the change. He mixed up the line combinations as well.

“It was only 60 minutes, but 60 minutes is (the length of) a game,” Capuano said. “They worked extremely hard. There was a lot of battling. That’s what you need throughout 60 minutes, throughout the course of the game.”

Understanding the team’s identity is going to be a big part of turning the Islanders season around.

“We have to grind teams down and we have to understand that’s who we are,” Capuano said. “We’re not winning 7-6 or 8-7. That’s not happening. We have to make sure we figure out a way to play within the team concept for 60 minutes and find a way to win those close games.”

Every team has their ups and downs.

“You’re not going to feel great every night, individually and as a team,” Pandolfo said. “But those nights that you don’t feel great, you have to find a way to play the right way and not make too many mistakes. You can still find ways to win when you’re not feeling great and that’s what we need to start doing here. We might feel a little tired some nights, but on those nights we just have to keep it simple, play the right way and play as a team.”

Fighting through adversity is just half the battle. Learning to be consistent is the other.

“Sometimes we get away from what makes us successful,” Pandolfo said. “We definitely go through stretches where we’re playing really well, but then we get away from it. We have to play consistent and always try to play the right way.”

He continued, “It’s a long season, 82 games. You’re going to go through stretches where you struggle, but you have to find a way to make yourself successful, playing as a team and stick with that. If you do that as a team and play the right way, you’ll eventually turn it around.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
5 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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