It's the stretch that will define the season. Six straight on the road, and eight of their next nine. It kicks off on Tuesday in Minnesota, then includes stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Madison Square Garden. Quite simply, if the Isles survive it, either by just even-pegging with the teams on their tail or making some hay and picking up points, then we'll be in for our first installment of playoff hockey in Brooklyn.
We know it, and they know it.
"It's make-or-break time for the season, pretty much,'' Kyle Okposo told reporters before New York embarked for Minnesota. "We could separate ourselves and give ourselves some room in the race or we could fall back and let other teams into it. That's what our challenge is right now. We've got five games on the long trip and then come home and play [at] the Rangers. So it's a huge five games for us.''
The swing to the Midwest then Western Canada comes with the comfort in knowing the Isles can use overtime or the shootout to get their two points without worrying about giving one away to an Eastern Conference team. They'll take any luxury they can afford right now.
With Calvin de Haan on the shelf, it appears Ryan Pulock is set to make his NHL debut Tuesday night, throwing the rookie straight into the fire against a very talented Wild club. And even though the swing through Canada comes against four teams that are a combined 18 games under .500, the Islanders can't overlook any of them. Each club has the offensive fire power on any given night to derail the best teams in the league. New York cannot be complacent.
"You are aware of where you're at and the fact of the other teams are winning and getting points all around you,'' Okposo said. "You're doing everything you can when you get the opportunity to play them that you're getting those two points.''
Getting those points on the road in the NHL never is. Just look at the Isles' 12-11-3 mark away from Barclays Center as proof. But the first five games of this trip come with a golden opportunity to come into Madison Square Garden a week from next Sunday on a roll. If the Isles can capitalize, they'll have set themselves up extremely well.