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A New Experience

The Islanders are headed to the postseason, and many of the players are geared up for their playoff debuts

Sunday, 04.28.2013 / 3:48 PM ET / News
By Travis Betts
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A New Experience
This week will mark the first postseason appearances for several homegrown talents such as Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic (Photo: Getty Images).

It’s an exciting time on Long Island.

Fresh off their final regular season game, the New York Islanders were back at Iceworks Sunday, getting ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

While it’s no secret that the pace of play will be elevated during the postseason, Jack Capuano breaks down the Islanders strategy very simply:

“You can’t change what’s made you successful," he said. "We’re not going to change how we go about our business. We’ve got to continue to work hard.”

After finding themselves out of the playoff picture for much of the first half of the season, the Islanders finished strong, including an 8-1-4 April that landed them in the top eight. Evgeni Nabokov says it’s more important than ever to keep that same focus and drive that put them in this position.

“We just have to do the same things we’ve been doing for the last three weeks, and that’s play hard to give ourselves a good chance to win, and give 100-percent every shift,” Nabokov said. “We have to do this for three periods and we can’t take a shift off, we can’t take any time off. Otherwise, we’re not going to have a lot of chances.”

Nabokov has 80 playoff games under his belt, more than any other Islander, with all coming during his tenure with the San Jose Sharks. Conversely, 16 players on the Islanders roster have yet to play NHL postseason hockey. But the 37-year-old is keeping the advice he gives to a minimum.

“I’m not going to walk around and tell them what to do,” Nabokov said. “They’re big guys, they’ve been in a lot of different situations at different levels. And this is no different. The hockey stays the same.”

Many eyes will be on John Tavares, who the Islanders selected No. 1 overall in 2009, as he makes his playoff debut. The veteran of 291 regular season games doesn’t want to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance that comes with playing on a bigger stage.

“I’ve watched the playoffs every year since I was three years old,” Tavares said. “You’re going to see the intensity and see how much playing for the cup means to everybody. But I don’t think we’re really going to understand what the whole experience is like until we get there. We want to come out hard and not ease our way into it. There’s so much importance on each and every game. It’s going to be a heck of a ride and we need to get off to a good start.”

There’s an undeniable excitement in the Islanders room. Third-year defenseman Travis Hamonic, who will also be playing in his first playoff series, says it’s going to be important to use emotion as a strength, but not get too caught up in the moment.

“I think we’re going to be excited,” Hamonic said. “That excitement level and intensity has to be there. This is the first time that I’ll play in the NHL playoffs, but my previous experience in juniors, I think sometimes guys get too hyped up and too dug in to the game that they’re over-thinking a little bit.”

Hamonic added that the team has come a long way since a five-game losing skid had them tied for last place in the Conference in mid-February.

“You’ve got to remember what you’ve done to get to this point in the season,” Hamonic said. “For us, it’s been playoff hockey for the last month plus, and the reason we’ve had a lot of success as a team is because we’re loose, but when it’s time to be mentally focused, we’re ready to go.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
4 TBL 50 28 18 4 131 115 60
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 49 25 17 7 126 122 57
10 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
11 CAR 52 23 21 8 124 138 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 53 20 28 5 133 167 45

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 46 17 19 -4 36
K. Okposo 47 12 24 -9 36
B. Nelson 49 20 11 1 31
F. Nielsen 49 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 49 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 48 8 15 5 23
A. Lee 49 7 14 1 21
N. Leddy 49 3 16 -12 19
R. Strome 38 5 13 -6 18
N. Kulemin 49 5 9 6 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 10 4 .921 2.18
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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