New Faces Paying Dividends for Isles|
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Saturday, November 3, 2007
Compiling a 6-4 record to start the season, the New York Islanders find themselves holding on to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, despite playing fewer games than all of their opponents.
For a team that was predicted to finish near the bottom of the conference, they couldn’t have scripted it any better.
Thanks in part to the gritty coaching of Ted Nolan and the key offseason acquisitions of Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko, the Isles may even be able to continue their solid play throughout the season.
“I have to give these guys credit, they’ve worked hard in practice and on the ice this season,” said Nolan after the team shutout the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-0 last Thursday. “We’ve been developing all season.”
A key factor in that development has been the play of Guerin, Comrie and Fedotenko, all of whom have been averaging a point a game through the first eighth of the season.
Comrie, who currently leads the team in goals, assists and points, has been a catalyst in the offensive zone and has proved that he is worthy of being a number one center.
“We talked to him a lot over the summer and he wanted to be a go-to guy,” said Nolan of Comrie. “He wanted responsibility and he came into camp in great shape. So far, so good.”
Guerin, too, has been extremely solid so far this season. Through the team’s first ten games, the former All-Star has been the team’s emotional and physical leader and has worn the “C” with pride. Not since the days of Patrick Flatley have the Islanders had a captain who plays with his heart on his sleeve every night like Guerin has. Additionally, Guerin has racked up 11 points in 10 games and is on pace to match his 36-goal performance from a season ago.
“Billy Guerin has led this team since the first day he got here,” said Nolan.
Scoring nine points in ten games, some may not appreciate the work of Fedotenko, but “Tank” hasn’t let anyone down either. Playing an aggressive game, while on pace for his first 30-goal season, the 27-year old has quickly become a pivotal member of this year’s team and looks to only get better as the season goes on.
“Fedotenko does it all,” said Nolan. “He makes great plays, especially in the defensive zone.”
However, while their play has been extremely solid, no one has to tell the Islanders that an NHL season is 82 games. They know as well as anyone that in order to defy the odds that, they will have to play consistently all season long.
“Your best players have to be your best players,” said Nolan after the team beat the Buffalo Sabres to start the season. “We feel good about who we are. We know what we have to do in order to be successful.”
NYSportsDay.com Senior Writer Brian Bohl contributed to this story.