Islanders prepare for 13-game season opener road trip with ‘half-full’ outlook
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The New York Islanders aren’t sneaking up on anyone this season. They are no longer ulterior motives in the league, but rather part of the elite of the NHL. This means that more often than not they are going to get the most out of every team they face, regardless of where the opposition is in the standings.
What will make things all the more difficult as the puck drops in their 2021-22 season Thursday night in Carolina against the Hurricanes is that the Islanders’ first 13 campaign games will be on the road in the construction of their new home, UBS Arena, has been completed.
This is the second longest road trip in NHL history, but the Islanders will look to build on their experience playing in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles during the 2020 playoffs when the play resumed after COVID shutdown.
“What our experiences have been over the past couple of years helps us fit into the on-road calendar because we’re somewhat used to it,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. “The big difference is that we won’t be in a city for a while… we’ll have to adapt… look at the fatigue. But these are things that we have talked about and we will do our best. “
Lamoriello added that he viewed the trip with a “half-full glass” perspective – a mindset that the rest of the team adopted.
“You take those road games out early, you’re going to have a lot of home action in the second half,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock. “We’re going to find a way in this group to be successful. We have all known life on the road… We will make the most of it and rest while we can.
Departing from Republic Airport on Long Island, the total arena-to-arena distance Islanders will cover in all 13 games will be 12,571 miles.
“We have a tight knit group, guys who can come together on the days off, create a certain chemistry,” added forward Brock Nelson. “We’re going to take it one day at a time and come up with a positive balance on the other side.”
The NHL is giving the Islanders the chance to rest that Pulock alluded to, even though there are a ton of trips. Those 13 games will be spread over 33 days, starting with Carolina on Thursday, the Florida Panthers on Saturday and the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Eight of those games will pit teams that made the playoffs last season.
“This group has been really great. They are not complainers. They understand that life isn’t always easy, ”Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think going on the road will be good for us. We’ve been home for a long time… it’s a great challenge.
“I look at the top three teams that we play. You have Carolina, Florida, and Chicago. You listen to everyone in the know and you talk about the strength of these teams, they should be good benchmark types… Hopefully we are successful. We are very capable of it.