Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/12/12


Last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers has all but sealed the Islanders fate this season. With 13 games left, the Isles should shift their focus from the playoff hunt to building for next season.

The team had hoped to make the playoffs this season. That was their stated goal from the start of training camp, and to be fair, it’s the closest they’ve come to accomplishing that goal in the last three seasons. Just a week ago the Islanders were a mere five points out of the eight spot in the Eastern Conference, but three losses to the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have moved them back to 10 points out and 14th in the conference.

The Isles aren’t mathematically eliminated, but the probability they pass six teams over the next four weeks is nearly impossible.

But, as it seems like every year, the Islanders have potential for next season. John Tavares showed why he is a star in the NHL, Matt Moulson continued his strong play, and P.A. Parenteau had another big year, as well.

The most important thing, though, is getting the younger players like Nino Niederreiter more playing time. Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has been criticized this season for his odd handling of Niederreiter’s ice time. “El Nino,” as he’s nicknamed, has seen a spike in ice time and can benefit from that during the final weeks of the season.

Also,  rookies Anders Nilsson, Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom will benefit.

Ullstrom is a player that has shown he is extremely talented and can perform at the NHL level. The extra ice-time this season would give him an edge next season when he comes in to compete for a spot on the roster. Cizikas will also benefit, as he’ll get the full NHL experience and have something to bring back to Bridgeport for their run in the AHL playoffs.

Nilsson has also earned a chance to finish out the season on Long Island. His three starts have shown he can handle playing in the NHL and a continued presence will allow the team to get a better idea of where he is in his development.

The Islanders won't be playing for a playoff spot this year, but they can help their chances for next year by starting to prepare for it today.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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