Isles Looking For Strong Second Half
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, January 20, 2007

Despite going 3-8-1 over the last dozen games and ruining one of the best starts in the franchises recent history, the New York Islanders still feel that they can rebound and make the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

"We asked them to empty the tank in the third period and they emptied it," Islanders head coach Ted Nolan told Newsday after the team defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 on Thursday. "They gave everything they had to give. It was a big win for us. If someone had asked us at the beginning of the year if we'd one game over .500 at the All-Star break, we'd take those chances. Now, we're in good position at the break, and it will be a horse race to the end."

However, despite beating the cellar-dwelling Flyers in their last game before the All-Star break, Nolan feels the team needs to get ready for the second half and regain the form that had them atop the Atlantic Division for a period of time earlier in the season.

“Over the break, we'll give them a program. We don't want them to just lie around,” Nolan said on the team’s official website. “The break is a good thing because it gives us time to re-charge our batteries and get mentally prepared for the important second half of the season.”

Not only will the All-Star break afford the Islanders the opportunity to rest players such as Radek Martinek, Alexei Yashin, Miroslav Satan and Bruno Gervais, who have been nursing injuries for the past few weeks, it will give Isles assistant coach Danny Flynn an opportunity to spend an extended period of time working with the team’s virtually nonexistent power play. In addition, it will give the team some time to reflect on some of the tough losses they’ve suffered recently, making sure they learn from their mistakes, rather than repeat them.

With that being said, the thing that separates this Islanders team from previous Isles teams that have had problems winning consistently is that their strong veteran lineup, consisting of established journeymen like Sean Hill, Mike Dunham and Mike Sillinger who have been through plenty of ups and downs over their each plus-decade NHL careers, understand the team has some work to do before they can really consider themselves worthy of being in playoff contention.

"We've struggled as of late with the third period," Sillinger told the Associated Press. "Let's face it. Our (recent) games have not been the greatest. It's time to bear down. Now, we have a week to think about it. When you go into an All-Star break, you want to finish with a good feeling."

"When you're not winning games, you kind of know the reason we're not winning," Isles leading scorer and lone representative at the 2007 All-Star game Jason Blake told Newsday. "There was a bit of desperation. We wanted a good feeling going to the All-Star break."

Now that they have it, it’s their job to keep that feeling going through the rest of the season. Otherwise, their playoff dreams this spring may turn into a summer-long nightmare.