Isles Trying to Overcome Odds|
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, March 31, 2007
Knowing that their road to the playoffs will be much tougher than the competition’s because of injuries to Rick DiPietro, Ryan Smyth and Andy Hilbert and games still remaining against the conference elite in the Senators and Devils and archrival Rangers, the Isles know that they have their work cut out for them.
Nevertheless, the team seems determined on defying the odds and making the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
“This is probably the closest it's been for a few years. All of the teams are going through the same thing with injuries and the emotions of being up and down,” Islanders assistant captain Mike Sillinger said on the team’s official website. “It's great to be a part of it. We have six games left and guys are watching what happened each night with the teams surrounding us.
“It's tough with all the injuries and having new guys come up, but it gives someone else an opportunity. We have a great hockey club and a lot of guys in the system who can get the job done. No one is going to feel sorry for us, so what has to happen is that we demand more from ourselves.”
Earlier in the season, the Islanders were one of the only teams in the league that could get contributions on both sides of the puck from all four lines, but after injuries to Smyth [leg] and Hilbert [shoulder] and the loss of Richard Zednik [personal reasons], the Isles may be forced to run three lines and give players like Richard Park, Arron Asham and Jeff Tambellini limited ice-time and as a result may not have the same level of energy as the other teams fighting for the last three playoff spots in the conference.
However, knowing that their playoff chances hang in the balance, the Islanders understand that there isn’t enough time to make excuses and that in order to make the playoffs, they have to win hockey games. While no one can argue that the suspension of Chris Simon and injuries to players like Alexei Yashin and Radek Martinek over the course of the season have seriously damaged the team’s playoff chances, the team still finds themselves within striking distance.
That alone may be the inspiration they need to continue their season.
“We have to start winning hockey games,” Islanders forward and leading goal-scorer Jason Blake said on the team’s official website, making reference to the team’s 3-5-2 record over their last ten games. “We're going to fight no matter what the score is and whether we're up or not.”