Puck Daddy - NHL

If you're an avid hockey fan, you may have caught wind of the news that the New York Islanders are having a bit of a tough go. They've won once in their last 18 attempts.

I wanted to hear from one of the players about what's going on out there, so I called a friend that I played summer shinny against for a half dozen years or so, Blake Comeau(notes).

Comeau has ridiculous hands. Those summer shinny games always boasted a solid amount of NHL talent, and this guy could out-finesse nearly anyone.

When I went to Islanders camp in 2007 and watched Blake play "real" hockey, I was boggled to see what a physical game he played.

Blake has adjusted his game to fill a valuable role and solidify his spot as a legit NHLer. Don't be surprised in a year or two when he gets more comfortable and becomes an offensive threat on top of that. He's certainly got the skills.

BOURNE: First off, let's keep it simple - how are things going?

BLAKE COMEAU: It's going good, just uh, grinding it out here on Long Island. Been going through a tough stretch but, I feel like we've played better the past four or five games than the previous ones, so hopefully we can get on the right track.

JB: Yeah, no kidding. How much of the struggles do you chalk up to missing such big pieces in Mark Streit(notes) and Kyle Okposo(notes)?

BC: Well, both of those guys are such big parts of our team, I mean Mark is one of the best defensemen in the league, and they both bring leadership that we obviously miss in the locker room, but, any time you have injuries in sports there are always other guys that can take advantage of the opportunity that they're getting, cause you know eventually those guys are going to be back.

You know what it's like, whenever you have guys out you need other guys to step up and fill their shoes, it should be a great chance to prove what you can do.

JB: Yeah -- those guys that are injured, are they around the team at all? Is Streit just basically a ghost this year, or is he at the rink every day, just waiting for next year to come?

BC: Well, I think they got their surgeries on pretty much the same day, and we didn't see either of them for the first little while. But Kyle's back around, so he's been skating and working out with the team, and Mark's been rehabbing -- so they're around now, which is a good thing, it's always nice to see the progress they're making at the rink.

JB: Ah, nice. As you mentioned, you guys have been in a tough stretch - is there any part of you that just wants to look at your GM and say "dude, we need some help here, we don't have the guys right now," whether it's because of injuries or not?

BC: You know, I haven't, and I don't think any of our other guys have either - that's one of the things we've talked about in meetings - we were playing well at the start of the year and had the belief that we could go in and win every game no matter who we were playing, and somewhere along the way we lost that. With the group of guys we have and how tight we are in the locker room, everyone gets along, everyone seems to enjoy each other, that's one of the things that still positive here. We gotta help each other out when we're going through tough times and we gotta find a way to get back to when we were confident and thinking we could win every game.

Obviously Garth is going to do his job, and is going to fill in the pieces that he feels fit, but I think Garth still believes in the guys in this locker room. We just need to work on ourselves in here right now.

JB: So I mean, I know how it is when you're on team and getting your ass handed to you more often than not - sorry - but it can be tough to have fun. Are you guys able to have any fun when you go to the rink every day or is it just sort of a sullen, sombre mood around there?

BC: Well it seems like that's how we've been the last ... three weeks. Guys get to the rink and it just wasn't an enjoyable atmosphere, obviously not winning had something to do with that.

That's one of the reasons I think we're going to turn this thing around -- we've talked about it, and more guys have been putting smiles on their faces. We're living a pretty good life getting to do something that we love every day and I think we have to take advantage of that. Like you said, we have to come to the rink and enjoy it and take advantage of that, we need to enjoy working hard. I think that'll help turn the results the other way.

JB: Maybe you should all just go out and buckled once in a while.

BC: Ha, yeah, mandatory team parties.

JB: It might have to come to that. So, you guys have an interesting goalie situation with Rick DiPietro(notes) committed to being there for a hundred years. Do you notice a difference in his game from before his injuries to now?

BC: I think with him, especially in practice, he's working on being a goaltender that plays his angles and stands up more, but I think in games I haven't noticed a huge change. I think lately he's played really well, like he was playing before his injuries -- that's one of the great parts about having two starters, whoever's hot can go. It's great for the mindset of the players in front of these guys, we know we're gonna have someone kicking for us.

JB: You played for Jack Capuano in Bridgeport, obviously -- how long did you play for him there?

BC: Ahhh, year and a half I think.

JB: So, did you feel like you had a leg up on a lot of the other players since he's seen you play for a long time and knows your game? Will that be good for your ice time, him coming there?

BC: Yeah, I mean, I feel like I'll get the same opportunity that I got before. My numbers aren't where I'd like them to be, I think like a lot of guys on this team. Personally, I need to elevate my game and get back to where I was at the start of the year. I need to take some steps and look at my game and figure out what I was doing at the start of the year that I'm not doing now. I think a lot of that is that I'm not shooting the puck as much, and I'm not playing confident.

A lot of hockey's a mental game and you know if you're going out there and not playing confident and you don't want the puck you're not going to have results so ... everyone needs to raise their game a bit more, we're all going to get a fair chance. I think we're going to be getting more wins coming up, I think we've had ... one in our last 18.

JB: How is Cappy different than Scott Gordon as a coach?

BC: I think Scott broke down the game in a lot of detail. He was pretty adamant on what he wanted done, guys in certain places, Cappy's gives guys a little more leeway on reading/reacting and using their hockey sense. But he's still on guys to make sure their reads and reactions are the right ones, if we make mistakes they can't be the same ones we're making all the time, and it can't be a lack of effort.

I'd say the biggest change is that he lets guys have options, and I think that's a good thing.

JB: So, you get to play with John Tavares(notes) a bit - him heading to Long Island was a big deal. Do you see the sort of ... Sidney Crosby(notes)/Steven Stamkos-ness, do you see that next-level talent in him, or do you think he just does the little things better than most guys?

BC: He does have that talent, it's why he went No. 1 in the NHL draft, why he played in the OHL as an under-ager, and had the success that he did. I think a lot of people see the talent on the ice but they don't see how he hangs around after practice is done and works on his hands and his shot. He's definitely a student of the game, always trying to figure out what his weaknesses are and get better, I think that's why he's had the success that he's had up to this point in his career, because he's willing to work on what he needs to work on to get better.

JB: Another high Islander draft pick, Josh Bailey(notes), got sent down. That's kinda messed up, huh?

BC: Ha, yeah I was pretty shocked. He had a good start to the year, then he had an injury, and it just seemed like, not just him, but the whole team kinda went on a slide. Josh is one of my good buddies, and he's taking it in a positive way. He's had success down in the American League, so hopefully he can keep working hard and get back up here. He's one of the pieces to the puzzle here, one of the core young guys.

JB: Probably had a lot to do with the whole 159 games played thing, right?

BC: Yeah, one more game in the NHL and he'd have to clear waivers to go down, and I think Garth wanted him to get that AHL experience, get some confidence back, score some points, score some goals, and that's what he's done.

Y'know, a lot of guys go down there and pout and be pissed about it, but he's had a great attitude about the whole thing, so hopefully when he gets back he can have some success right away.

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