Islanders look to keep improving after two 100-point seasons
NEW YORK (AP) After taking another big step forward with their second straight 100-point season and the franchise's first playoff series win since 1993, the New York Islanders hope to keep up their improved play.
The Islanders overcame injuries down the stretch last season to earn a playoff berth for the second straight year, and third in the past four. New York then advanced to the second round before losing to Tampa Bay in five games.
Now, the Islanders are focused on going further this season.
''We've made the playoffs two years in a row and obviously want to get the third year and do better,'' defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. ''Every time you make the playoffs you have to use it as an experience. Take away from it what you can and learn from it, push forward and try to get better.''
That quest will be undertaken by a slightly different group after some offseason changes. Longtime stars Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin left via free agency and were replaced by newcomers Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, and the return of P.A. Parenteau for a second stint with the team.
Ladd, 31, is a two-time Stanley Cup winner has scored at least 46 points in seven of the last eight seasons. Chimera, 37, reached 39 in three of the last five years, and the 33-year-old Parenteau scored fewer than 33 just once in the last six seasons.
Led by star center John Tavares, the Islanders' returning core has just one player over 30 - the 32-year-old Boychuk. That's something that appealed to Ladd.
''It's a younger group that can be good for a long time,'' Ladd said. ''So that's exciting for me to come in and be involved in that. Now it's our job to take that on-ice product to the next level.''
After enduring distractions the last two years with their last season at the Nassau Coliseum and then their adjustment to the Barclays Center a year ago, the Islanders' focus is now simply on playing.
Some other things to know as they head into their second season in Brooklyn:
SETTING UP LINES: Tavares, just joining the team after helping Canada win the World Cup last week, will likely be teamed up with Ladd and Parenteau on the first line. The rest of the lines could be a work in progress through the end of the preseason and into the season. Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, who were on the vaunted fourth line with Martin for several seasons, were teamed up with Nikolay Kulemin last week after the Russian joined the team following his play in the World Cup.
WHO'S IN GOAL?: The Islanders go into the season with the strong goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. Halak went 38-17-4 with a 2.43 goals-against average for the Islanders in 2014-15, and mostly shared the net with Greiss until he was injured March 8. Greiss then took over from there and was key in the first-round series win against Florida. Halak is healthy now and was brilliant for Europe in its run to the World Cup finals. Capuano liked using the two nearly evenly last year and could go with the same approach again.
TOUGH DIVISION: The Metropolitan Division features defending champion Pittsburgh and Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington, as well as both of the conference's wild-card teams from last season - giving the division five of the East's eight playoff teams. ''It's good playing against stiff competition for the 60 percent of the games that are divisional games,'' Clutterbuck said. ''It gets you prepared for the (playoffs) and that's what you want.''
HOME COOKING: The Islanders made themselves right at home in Brooklyn last season, going 25-11-5 to get 25 home wins for the second straight year. They'll be looking to keep up that strong play on home ice again, especially with 10 of their first 13 games at Barclays Center. That stretch includes eight games against last season's playoff teams. ''We got some big games early on,'' defenseman Travis Hamonic said. ''You want to get off to a good start and just get the ball rolling off the bat.''
DEFENSIVE DEPTH: Hamonic, Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are the established stalwarts on the blue line. Dennis Seidenberg, bought out by Boston in the offseason, was signed to a one-year deal last week. The 35-year-old can play both sides and is reunited with former Bruins teammate Johnny Boychuk. Adding Seidenberg, who was also on Europe's World Cup team, likely results in two of the three between Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock will start the season in Bridgeport.
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