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Improved Islanders expect to be in ’12 postseason

NHL playoffs began last night, once again without Islanders, but young talent should propel them next year.

Simply it was a moment that summarized the 2010-11 New York Islanders: Loose defiance.

P.A. Parenteau was asked a few minutes after Friday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh if that game encapsulated the season. The Islanders rallied back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, only to lose on Chris Kuntiz’s third-round shootout winner.

Parenteau smirked, and then laughed, as fourth-line center Zenon Konopka chided, “That we fell short? What are you trying to say, there?”

After a moment, Parenteau acknowledged that the loss to the Penguins, “kind of reflects the way we played all year. We came up short a few times. It’s unfortunate. We kind of want to play the spoiler role to the end.”

While finished the 2010-11 campaign with a 30-39-13 record, the home finale did not feel like a conclusion. Rather, the sentiment was one of an extended break for a team that gained respect from various corners of the NHL in the second half of the season.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Boston coach Claude Julien and Carolina coach Paul Maurice were but a few who pointed towards the Islanders as a franchise on the rise. The trio noted that the Islanders led the NHL with 586 man games lost to injury, yet played hard every night.

“There are a lot of good things for this team coming up,” Parenteau said. If we can stay healthy next, especially on the back end, I think we’ll have a really good team and surprise a lot of people. We’re going to be ready for next year.”

They should be. The Islanders finished the season with five 20-goal scorers, may have Selke Trophy and Calder Trophy candidates in Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, and have promising talent in the pipeline, not to mention a permanent head coach in Jack Capuano, who posted a 26-29-10 record.

 
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