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Islanders know every shift is a Game 7 during Stanley Cup Playoff push

Sean Leahy
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Starting off the month of March, the New York Islanders began a seven-game homestand 0-2-1. Since then, they've managed a 5-1-1 record and, outside of a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have picked up points in seven of their last eight games.

Currently three points behind the New Jersey Devils for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders start a four-game homestand at Nassau Coliseum against three teams -- Ottawa, Montreal and Pittsburgh -- sitting where they want to be: in a playoff spot.

Given the expectations on the team and a shortened schedule, the Islanders know every point is valuable.

"[It's been a] playoff approach from Day 1," said head coach Jack Capuano after Tuesday's morning skate.

"With the condensed season, every game, every shift, it's like a Game 7. That's the mindset you have to have as a player. You have to win your shift, we have to play our structured hockey, defense-first mentality and we have to make sure we have discipline on the puck in all three zones."

With 20 games to go in their season, the Islanders will need to begin turning around their fortunes at home (5-8-2) starting this week, something that will go a long way to ensuring they stay in contention for their first playoff spot since 2007.

"We just have to play with a road mentality, even at home," said captain Mark Streit.

Despite the 5-1-1 record in their last seven games, the Islanders have only been able to tread water in the East standings. They were three points out of eighth on March 3, the day they defeated the Senators in a shootout. Sixteen days later, they're one spot better, but the point difference from the No. 8 seed remains the same.

Games involving the charity point, Capuano said, haven't helped them make up ground.

"We have 20 to go and every game is going to be crucial," said Streit. "The mindset is like a playoff game, absolutely. The most important thing is always the next game. Just have to take it one-by-one and start it tonight."

With the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, teams many expected to be comfortably in playoff position, struggling, the opportunity is ripe for them to attempt a second half charge. The top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes has led the way with 9 goals and 21 points in their last seven games

In what shapes up to be a tough week of games, Capuano is only taking things game-by-game and focusing on only what the Islanders are doing, not what's going on in the rest of the conference.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what other teams do, it all comes down to how you play and what you do," said Capuano.

"We have to get points in games that you play if you want to be there at the end."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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