Schwartz: With extra rest, Islanders have their to-do list for Game 6


When the Islanders step on the ice for Game 6 against Carolina Friday night, they will hear 17,255 fans at UBS Arena preparing for their arrival.

Down three games to two, the season is on the line, and the Islanders know that the fans will be bringing it like they did in Games 3 and 4.

Actually, the expectation is higher.

“I would expect even louder,” said forward Zach Parise. “Before opening drop, it’s loud and even throughout the game, they’re into it. It’s up to us to give something to cheer about. You gotta get them excited. It goes both ways and we feed off them and they feed off us.”

But this game won’t simply be just about how loud Islanders Country will be. It’s also about execution on the ice, and a strong start to the game is essential. The team that has scored first has won all five games so far, so the Islanders have their blueprint for success.

“You always want to get the first (goal),” said forward Mat Barzal. “It seems like in this series, it’s been the team that scores first kind of holds momentum, so it’s big for us to get one and just hold the lead.”

This has been an extremely physical series through five games and, for the most part, there has not been a lot of open ice available for either team. There have also been some bumps and bruises along the way, so the fact that there was an extra day between Games 5 and 6 is huge – not just for the Islanders, but for the Hurricanes as well.

“I think it just gives everybody more rest…both sides,” said Head Coach Lane Lambert.

“I think it’s big but it goes both ways,” said defenseman Scott Mayfield. “Rest is important but for us it’s just focusing on the next game.”

“It’s been a hard, tight-checking series,” said Parise. “For everyone to get a little bit of a breather, that’s gotta be good.”

The Islanders were off on Wednesday, but they were back on the ice for a practice Thursday morning. It’s not often that there is practice time during a playoff series, but it was an opportunity for the Islanders to get some work in.

Oh, and also try to figure out how to fix that struggling power play that is just 1-for-15 in the series.

“It’s definitely been frustrating,” said Barzal. “That’s the time where you get to handle (the puck) a little bit. You get to make some plays and some passes so you kind of get a good feel for the game, and it’s been quite the opposite. It’s the playoffs and you move on and you try to get better the next game; that’s all you can do.”

The Islanders have been examining the power play by looking at video and having meetings, but Thursday gave them a chance to maybe tweak some things on the ice and see if that can get the man advantage going in Game 6.

At 5-on-5, the Islanders have been the better team, but one would think that special teams will play a huge role in Game 6 – and, if the Islanders can extend the series, Game 7.

“Practicing is extremely beneficial and then you have to translate it into game situations when the pressure is on,” said Lambert. “You could always use a bounce, certainly on the power play. We scored a game winner in Game 3 on the power play. We continue to work on solutions. We know it has to be better.”

The fans will certainly be loud for Game 6 on Friday night, but the Islanders need to make some noise of their own with a strong start, maybe grab an early lead and find some power play success.

That would certainly raise the decibel level at UBS Arena.

“This is special,” said Barzal. “It’s been loud there. Our fans have been great. We’re excited. It’s going to be a battle.”

A battle that the Islanders and their fans are hoping results in a return trip to Raleigh for Game 7 on Sunday.

Follow Peter Schwartz on Twitter: @SchwartzSports

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