With 11 games left, the Islanders know they're season won't see a playoff berth despite not being mathematically out of the race. In turn, head coach Doug Weight is doing a little experiment with his star players.
Weight wants to see what John Tavares and Mathew Barzal can do on the same line, which is why he is moving Tavares to left wing ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Hurricanes at Barclays Center. However, he warned not to take the move to heart being that Tavares has played center all these years.
"It doesn't mean he's going to play wing and it doesn't mean he's not a centerman," Weight told Newsday's Andrew Gross. "It's an experiment. Moving forward, it gives them some experience together. I'm excited to see it."
Tavares knows wing isn't his natural calling on the ice, but he is always open to enhancing his versatility.
"It's not my natural position, but I've played it before and I just try to have a lot of versatility with my game to begin with," Tavares said. "Mentally, I'll prepare myself a little bit on what to expect and there are certain things that come with playing it."
Tavares is also mentally prepared to miss the playoffs for the second straight season. No player wants to admit that their season is over, but that doesn't mean Tavares and the rest of the Islanders are going to give up during this final stretch.
"I think the realistic part of it is, obviously, the odds are stacked against us," he said. "I think you always play no matter waht, you never know what can happen. But trying to think about winning 10, 11 games in a row is kind of tough to grasp in just a single thought. Mostly, we've just got to prepare for tomorrow. We just want to get back in the win column."
Barzal added, "Obviously it stinks. Everyone knows the situation we're in. But we're all professionals in here and we're getting paid, so we've got to go out and put on our work boots no matter what the situation is."
Even harder for Isles fan to grasp in one thought is the fact that Tavares is done with his six-year, $33 million deal after the season. Tavares will explore free agency, but has made it known that he'd love to be an Islander next season. However, the fact that he won't play in a playoff game in two straight seasons along with all the off-the-ice drama about building on Belmont, he may not be in Blue and Orange next season.
For now, though, Tavares is focused on finishing these final games strong before he addresses his future.
"I think just enjoying to play and being a competitor, being an athlete," Tavares said. "Having a lot of pride. Your career only lasts so long. You want to enjoy every second of it, every challenge no matter how tough it's going."