SYOSSET, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders, one of few teams that made news during the NHL's lengthy lockout, hope to continue to ride the attention wave into the shortened season.
And maybe make the postseason along the way.
The Islanders, who announced in October that they will leave the Nassau Coliseum for Brooklyn and the new Barclays Center in 2015, haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2007. Still, members of this franchise — a proud one that won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s — believe that drought could end before the team closes the doors on Long Island ... and maybe even sooner.
"Every team is optimistic," center John Tavares said. "I think it's trying to be consistent. It's critical for us to be sharp."
New York was the only member of the Atlantic Division last season to not reach 100 points. The Islanders went 34-37-11 for 79 points, and are a collective 159-198-23 since 2007-08.
An issue that has cost the Islanders the last two seasons is a slow start. New York lost 63 of 98 games between October and January in that span. And now, with an abbreviated schedule, quicker travel, and not much turnaround time between games, a solid opening is imperative.
"It's up to us to get off to a good start," goaltender Rick DiPietro said. "Adrenaline is going to be flowing."
Wherever they go, Tavares will lead the way. The top pick in the 2009 draft, Tavares finished last season with 31 goals and landed in the top ten in NHL scoring with 81 points. Tavares spent the lockout playing for HC Bern of the Swiss league. He played with Islanders teammate Mark Streit there.
"Just glad to be here. It's been a great first couple days," Tavares said. "Looking back it was 100 percent the right decision. It's a great league (in Switzerland). I feel it will benefit me."
While acknowledging the potential hazard of having players injured while overseas, Islanders coach Jack Capuano believes the work will be a benefit, as well.
"It is a double-edged sword," Capuano said. "But I'd rather have guys playing."
One issue Capuano is dealing with this week is the fate of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who refused to return from KHL to rejoin his Islanders teammates this week. But under the terms of a deal struck between the NHL and the KHL, players must come back to the former.
The KHL announced Tuesday that Visnovsky could not play for Slovan Bratislava until an agreement is put in place with the Islanders. Visnovsky did not dress, as a result, for the team's game on Tuesday.
"Lubo has personal reasons for not reporting to the Islanders right now, all of which have absolutely nothing to do with the New York Islanders," Visnovsky's agent, Neil Sheehy wrote in an email to the AP this week. "Lubo admires (Islanders general manager) Garth Snow and we will have to see how this situation plays out."