Is­lan­ders look to build on two straight 100-point sea­sons

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Vin A. Cher­wood AP Sports Writer

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.

•••

LAST SEA­SON:

MOLLY RI­LEY — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals goalie Braden Holtby makes a save off a shot by New York Is­lan­ders right wing P.A. Par­enteau dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion game Sun­day in Wash­ing­ton.

Metropoli­tan Di­vi­sion. Lost to Tampa Bay Light­ning in Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals. COACH: Jack Ca­puano (sev­enth sea­son, sev­enth NHL sea­son). ADDED: LW An­drew Ladd, LW Jason Chimera, RW P.A. Par­enteau, D Den­nis Sei­den­berg.. LOST: C Frans Nielsen, RW Kyle Ok­poso, LW Matt Martin, D Marek Zidlicky. PLAYER TO WATCH: John Tavares. En­ter­ing his eighth sea­son in the NHL after be­ing se­lected No. 1 over­all in 2009, Tavares had 33 goals and 37 as­sists last sea­son — down from his ca­reer highs for goals (38) and points (86) the pre­vi­ous year. The face of the fran­chise since join­ing the league, he’ll be skat­ing with Ladd and Par­enteau this sea­son after the ros­ter

changes via free agency. OUT­LOOK: With the dis­trac­tions of the move to Brook­lyn be­hind them, the Is­lan­ders have high ex­pec­ta­tions in their sec­ond sea­son at Bar­clays Cen­ter after a successful de­but. They’ll be look­ing to build off their sec­ond straight post­sea­son ap­pear­ance and first play­off se­ries win since 1993. Tavares missed the start of training camp while help­ing Canada to the World Cup ti­tle last week, and will need to de­velop chem­istry with his new line­mates. The other lines could also be shuf­fled through the pre­sea­son. Sei­den­berg re­joins for­mer Bru­ins team­mate Johnny Boy­chuk and will likely round out the de­fen­sive lineup. The Is­lan­ders still have a younger core with the new­com­ers and Boy­chuk the only play­ers over 30.

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