NHL on NBCSN: Islanders ‘excited’ to be back home after nine-game road trip

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the New York Islanders host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

As of right now, there are 10 points that separate the Islanders and Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference standings. At this point of the season, that’s a huge amount.

Even though they’re well ahead of Carolina, the Islanders still don’t find themselves in a playoff spot. They’ve accumulated 75 points in 67 games, and even though they have one more regulation/overtime win than the team they’re chasing, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Leafs have one more point in the same amount of games.

The good news for the Islanders, is that they’re still very much in the playoff race after their nine-game road trip came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Blues on Saturday night. Overall, New York finished the trip with a solid 5-3-1 record.

“I think all we can do is just keep trucking forward; we’re still in a good spot,” John Tavares said after the loss to the Blues, per Newsday. “I think obviously we’ll be excited to be back home Monday in front of our fans.”

The first game back home from a long road trip is never an easy one, but the Isles have been terrific at Barclays Center in 2016-17, as they currently own  a 20-8-6 record at home. They also haven’t lost a game in Brooklyn since Jan. 11 (9-0-2).

At this point, it’s become clear that the Hurricanes will be playing spoiler between now and the end of the season. It’s a position they’ve been in often enough over the last few years.

Carolina is coming off an overtime loss to Toronto on Saturday night, and they’ll look to push the Islanders to the limit too.

Coming into this home-and-home series with the Isles, the ‘Canes have managed to win just three of their last 14 contests.

Rookie Sebastian Aho has been one of the few pleasant stories for Carolina this season. The 19-year-old hit the 20-goal mark last week, and it looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

“There are some things you have to learn,” Aho said, per the Raleigh News & Observer “Everything here was new for me – new language, new country, new team.

“You can’t prepare for everything before you come here. I think I have gotten used to it pretty fast. After 20 games I got more comfortable and more confidence and was able to play my game.”