They will face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night and then travel to Fort Lauderdale to battle the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
“We know the importance of going down to Tampa and Florida,” head coach Jack Capuano said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think all the points right now, whether you get one or two, it’s huge… Points are crucial and it’s still a tight race. We’re right there, but we have to match the intensity level. Looking at Tampa they obviously have some firepower, there is no question, so playing sound defensively is going to be key for us.”
It will be yet another chance for the Islanders to make the jump into a playoff spot. New York had that chance on Sunday when they played the Penguins in Pittsburgh, but a bad 6-1 loss halted their momentum.
It was a loss that the team isn’t dwelling on, but will try to learn from.
“You don’t want to think about it, but you still learn a lesson and we need to realize what we need to do better,” captain Mark Streit said. “Obviously the start wasn’t helpful. Being down by three goals after the first 20 minutes was tough. We need to really bare down on having a good start in the next two games.”
The Isles will have to find ways to win without one of their best penalty killers, Michael Grabner. He was placed on the injured reserve list, retroactively to March 10. The team has recalled David Ullstrom, who was sent down to the AHL just two days ago, to fill the whole Grabner’s injury leaves.
Ullstrom is looking forward to the chance to contribute again and help get the Isles some wins.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “Obviously this is where I want to be. I will take the opportunity here to get back to the way I want to play and help the team out.”
The Islanders will also have along with them on the short trip, Matt Carkner and Jesse Joensuu. Both have been sidelined with injury and Capuano confirmed after practice that the two would make the trip.
The players in the locker room seemed well aware of the importance of this upcoming trip and Streit said he could feel the excitement from his teammates.
“Everybody is really motivated,” he commented. “We have a great atmosphere in the locker room and everyone is really excited. Six weeks to go. We really want to make the playoffs.”
Casey Cizikas also understood the importance of getting points in the next two games.
“I think we’re three or four points out of a playoff spot right now and we need these points coming up,” he said. “With only 20, 23 games left in the season we cant afford to give up points. It’s definitely going to be big road trip for us. It’s something we’re going to have to take real seriously."