NHL

Success was worth Weight as Islanders visit Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- When Doug Weight looks down the New York Islanders bench, he recalls advice from his father.

"My dad said things are going to go good and they're going to go bad," Weight, the Islanders' interim coach, told The Globe and Mail earlier this week. "Pucks are going to go in and they're not. Just make sure, when the coach looks down and sees your number, he thinks: 'I trust him and I want to put him back out there.'

"To be honest, I feel that way about most every guy in our room. I want to inspire them and I want them to inspire me ... and keep everybody upbeat and believing."

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So far, so good.

Since Weight, a first-time NHL head coach, took over from the fired Jack Capuano on Jan. 17, the reborn Islanders are 14-6-3. Before the coaching change, they were in last place in the Eastern Conference. Now they have a tenuous hold on the conference's second wild-card berth.

The Islanders (31-23-11) will try to keep the good times rolling Thursday as they visit the Vancouver Canucks (28-30-8) at Rogers Arena.

Weight, a former NHL star who accumulated 1,033 points during his playing career, said preparation has been the key to his success. An assistant under Capuano, he also credits the deposed bench boss.

"It's not that I'm any bit of a guru," Weight told The Globe and Mail. "But I feel like being on the bench and knowing what I felt as a player has helped me tremendously as far as dealing with these guys."

The Islanders, 6-3-1 in their past 10 games, are coming off a convincing 4-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton on Tuesday.

"I believe that in the dressing room, we're a confident team with great leadership and we believe we're a playoff team," Weight told The Globe and Mail. "To be 11 or 12 points out five or six weeks ago, it was disparaging. It was disheartening. It was a slap in the face that it had to come to the firing of a coach.

"I think those things wake teams up. But ultimately, in this league, if you don't do it on the ice and dig in and work for each other, the results aren't going to change for a consistent period of time."

The Islanders found consistency without making any significant roster changes, and they stood pat at the NHL trade deadline. General manager Garth Snow's lone move around deadline time was to recall Joshua Ho-Sang from the minors, stressing that it was the only one the club needed to make.

Ho-Sang made good on the GM's decision by scoring his first NHL goal in Tuesday's win over the Oilers.

"There are no words to describe it," Ho-Sang told reporters. "It's such a relief to score and makes you feel like you belong and that things are possible. All of your dreams are coming true in front of your eyes, which is cool. It was a very special moment."

Meanwhile the Canucks, coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, are looking for more special moments from their young players after veteran wingers Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows were traded last week. Starved for goals on most nights, the Canucks are fighting to keep their slim playoff hopes alive while seeking more output from young forwards who have been cast in more prominent offensive roles.

Still, the Canucks won two of their past three games, earning victories in Anaheim and Los Angeles last weekend, and continue to keep games close. Forward Brendan Gaunce said he believes they can follow up on a gritty showing against Montreal as they attempt to avenge a road loss to the Isles in November.

"I think we have been playing pretty well lately," Gaunce said. "All our lines are playing well. It's good, and the room is feeling good right now. We just need to come in with the same attitude we had."

Gaunce, 22, is one of the young Vancouver players being called upon for more offense, especially with winger Loui Eriksson still sidelined with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Gaunce, a Canucks first-round draft choice (26th overall) in 2012, has yet to score in 56 games this season.

How's his confidence?

"I think it's fine," said Gaunce, who was stopped on a good scoring chance against Montreal. "I have been playing a lot more lately, and it's growing with every game. I'm playing with the same linemates and getting used to them. I'm feeling good on the ice."

But Gaunce, who has only five assists this season, hopes to turn the red light on soon.

"For me, I'm probably my hardest critic," he said. "It's just something I want to be able to do."