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Off The Island

Isles embark on four-game road trip

Monday, 11.4.2013 / 5:22 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Off The Island

Ahead of their upcoming four-game road trip, the New York Islanders have a lot to feel good about. They’ve won back-to-back games for the first time this season and did so with a strong work ethic, character and resilience. Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen are among the league’s leaders in scoring and the top line is quickly developing on-ice chemistry.

On the onset of the seven day trip to Washington, Raleigh, Columbus and Montreal, the Islanders can also feel great about their play on the road dating back to last season.

The Islanders flipped the convention that playing on the road is a disadvantage in 2012-13, skating to a 14-6-4 road record. On road trips four games or longer, the Isles went 9-3-3 and didn’t have a losing record on any of them.

Head coach Jack Capuano credits details, good habits and hard work for his teams’ success.

“Guys know our system and how we need to play. For us to execute and have success, it’s a function of playing physical, it’s how we manage the puck. It’s our discipline in all three zones and doing the right things.”

The penalty kill is one of those strong points, as the Isles have killed off 93% of their trips to the sin bin in five road games this season. Capuano said he likes what he’s seen from all four lines and he’s confident using any of his combinations against the opposition. The keys to a successful trip remain the same up and down the lineup: simplify the game, channel the negative energy in the building and play physically.

“Part of the thing about playing on the road is not being pretty about it,” Travis Hamonic said. “You have to make the simple play when you can. And I think those are fun games to play. It’s always a tough environment we’re going into, but it’s good.”

With three of the four games against the Metropolitan division, the buildings won’t be friendly to the Islanders. Especially for a physical player like Cal Clutterbuck, whose hits won’t be greeted with the same cheers as they are at Nassau Coliseum.

“There’s a different feel and a different energy,” said Clutterbuck. “You have to create your own energy, your own enthusiasm. Every boo is a cheer on the road.”

The guys here are very close. There’s no separation from the youngest to the oldest guyThomas Vanek

The Islanders embark on their trip with two straight road wins, a 6-5-3 record overall and in second place in the division. Thinking about last years’ success won’t put space between themselves and third-place Washington, but replicating Friday’s gutsy 5-4 win in Ottawa, where the Islanders overcame adversity and put everything on net, will.

“We’ve had some games at home slip away from us here, so it’s going to be important to get some points on the trip,” Clutterbuck said. “(We need to) keep it simple. We played a pretty efficient road game in Ottawa, so we are trying to emulate that as much as possible and give ourselves the best chance at coming back with as many points as possible.”

The four-game swing is the longest of the Isles season thus far, but provides the secondary benefit of giving the players extra time to bond off the ice. For a recent acquisition like Thomas Vanek, spending more time to get to know a tightly-knit room can only help.

“The guys here are very close. There’s no separation from the youngest to the oldest guy,” Vanek said. “Guys get along, they care about each other and you can see in the games, they play hard for each other.”

That doesn’t mean the Austrian star is immune to some ribbing or road trip pranks.

“You always get that,” he said. “It probably starts with Bolts (Eric Boulton) and ends with Bolts… After a few days you get to know everyone and dish it back.”

The Islanders kick off a four-game trip Tuesday night in DC against the Capitals. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Okposo 49 15 26 -7 41
J. Tavares 48 19 21 -4 40
F. Nielsen 51 15 18 0 33
B. Nelson 51 20 11 1 31
M. Grabovski 51 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 50 9 15 5 24
N. Leddy 51 3 20 -8 23
A. Lee 51 7 15 1 22
R. Strome 40 5 14 -6 19
C. Clutterbuck 50 11 4 6 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 11 4 .917 2.28
T. Greiss 14 6 2 .929 2.26
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