Schedule makers didn’t do the New York Islanders any favors with their end-of-season stretch.
But for now, the team isn’t focusing on the negatives.
The Isles will play their final home game of the regular season on Tuesday against Florida — then set out on a five-game road swing to finish the year.
Needless to say, New York recognizes the importance of tonight’s affair.
“It’s huge,” forward Keith Aucoin told Newsday. “We had a real physical and emotionally draining game against the Rangers [on Saturday]. We have to make sure we play with the same effort.
“We need to finish our home games with a win, not only that it’s important to the standings. It’s almost a must-win game for us.”
After tonight’s game, the Isles will set out on a trip through Toronto, Winnipeg, Carolina, Philadelphia and Buffalo, with the final two contests of the year coming in a back-to-back situation (Flyers on Apr. 25; Sabres on Apr. 26).
It’s not an ideal schedule — no team wants to play its final home game 10 days before the end of the regular season — but few teams are better equipped to deal with an extended period away from home.
The Isles have one of the best road records in the East this season (12-5-2) and have secured at least a point in seven of their last eight road games.
Speaking of points, New York heads into tonight’s action holding the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, three points clear of ninth-place Winnipeg and one up on the eighth-place Rangers.
Needless to say, points are at a premium. There are 12 left for grabs, and leading scorer John Tavares wants them all.
“Obviously, 12 is what we’d like to get,” he said. “Obviously, earn as many of these 12 as we can. Every game, we need results. It’s a big game, it’s our final game at home.
“We want to take advantage of that, finish the year at home on a good note.”