Isles feel they can contend

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

In the opinion of Rick DiPietro, the New York Islanders won't be content hanging around eighth place all year, hoping some team lets them through the playoff door.

"We don't want to sneak in," said the high-priced goaltender. "If we're going to be a great team -- and we do want to -- we have to have the consistency that great teams have. I know (coach Ted Nolan) and the players aren't going to settle for mediocrity."

Another Isles team might have folded the tent after the Maple Leafs grabbed a 3-1 lead last night, the third game in four nights for New York. But for awhile it looked like a spirited comeback was in the works, one that would allow them to complete a five-game trip without a regulation loss.

DiPietro, whose new 15-year, $68 million deal was part of a bizarre summer on the Island, made more than 20 saves after the Leafs went up. Toronto won 4-2.

"Looking at the overall road trip (3-1-1), I like the way we battled," Nolan said.

Revitalized centre Alexei Yashin collected his 23rd point last night with a second-period assist. For one of the few times since signing for 10 years and $90 million US, people are looking at his offensive numbers and not the fat contract. He could threaten his career high of 94 points as an Ottawa Senator, yet considers himself just one cog in the new-look Isles.

"Everyone is doing their role and that's why we've been better," said Yashin.

He has added penalty killing to his repertoire and long-time observers believe that move has made a huge difference in his commitment.

"It has helped," Yashin agreed. "When you miss six or eight minutes a game (while regular penalty killers toil) sometimes it takes you five or six minutes to get back to normal conditioning."

Toronto coach Paul Maurice says certain coaches have the right tools to motivate certain players and the Nolan -- Yashin chemistry is ideal.

"Ted has that ability to squeeze it out of players and get a good feeling going," Maurice said. "Other guys are technical. Ken Hitchcock can get a bunch of guys to play the exact same way, Lindy Ruff manages the different personalities. There is structure, but Lindy allows for creativity. What Teddy does is fire 'em up and he's had that ability for years.

"Yashin is a force. Sometimes the coach has to realize that he didn't do the contract. That's the advantage of having a guy such as Ted come in. He wasn't there the last five years and he's different. It's just one of the reasons we get fired in this business every few years."


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