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NEW YORK (AP) — As they begin their first season without John Tavares Craig Anderson Jersey , the New York Islanders are certain to be a different team. They believe they can be better, too.

There’s new leadership with Lou Lamoriello running the front office and Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. And even without their former captain, the Islanders still have plenty of offense with Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee leading the way.

After guiding Washington to the championship in June, Trotz is being counted on to turn an Islanders team that has just one playoff series win since 1993 into a winner.

“It’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “We want to build a consistent contender, that’s plain and simple. Once you get to the status of being a consistent contender, you get into the (playoffs) every year and you have a chance to win the Cup.”

The Islanders have missed the playoffs the last two years and eight of the last 11. Last season, they finished 17 points out of a postseason spot after losing 30 of their final 45 games. The struggles led to the change in leadership that has also brought new optimism if not high expectations.

“If people say we’re underdogs, that’s fine, you just take it game by game,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “When you miss the playoffs Bo Horvat Jersey , you obviously don’t want to miss it again. … That’s the goal for our team, to make the playoffs and ultimately win.”

Barzal is coming off a stellar debut season in which he earned the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rooking after leading the Islanders with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists). With Tavares gone to his hometown Maple Leafs, Barzal knows he will be counted on to step up.

“John is a great player, it’s tough to replace him,” Barzal said. “But now that it’s over with we have to look ahead. I’m excited for the challenge. We got a lot of other guys here I’m assuming are excited to fill a bigger role.”

Barzal isn’t the only scoring threat on a team that finished eighth in the NHL with 261 goals. Lee had the franchise’s first 40-goal season in 11 years, Josh Bailey had a career-high 71 points (18 goals, 53 assists), and Jordan Eberle added 25 goals and 34 assists.

HOMES SWEET HOMES

Just 3 1/2 years after seemingly playing their last game at the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders will be back on Long Island for nearly half their home games. The team will play 21 games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, their home since the start of the 2015-16 season, and 20 at the Coliseum under an arrangement could last three seasons until their new arena is built next to the racetrack at Belmont Park. Many players live near the old facility.

“It’s going to be a lot easier for the guys, as far as commuting goes Duncan Keith Jersey ,” veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck said. “Hopefully people are as excited to have us back as we are to be back.”

IMPROVING THE DEFENSE

Hampered by injuries to some key players, the defense gave up league-worst numbers in goals and shots allowed, and the Islanders were also last in penalty-killing. However, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech established themselves as solid young defensemen and will be counted on to steady a unit that lost Calvin de Haan and added only Luca Sbisa. Improvement will have to come from Trotz’s system.

NEW CONTRACTS?

After enduring the uncertainty of Tavares’ contract situation all last season, the Islanders could face similar questions again as several players — including Lee and Jordan Eberle — are in the final year of their deals. Others who could be unrestricted free agents include Brock Nelson, and newcomers Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jan Kovar and Robin Lehner.

“Everyone’s unique in their own situation, everything is going to fall into different spots for individual guys,” Lee said. “I was able to watch and learn from (Tavares’ situation), but our cases are different.”

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Thomas Greiss and Lehner go into the season as the primary goalie tandem. Greiss, who split time with Jaroslav Halak (now in Boston) most of the last three seasons, dealt with an injury down the stretch last year and finished 13-8-2 with one shutout and a 3.82 goals-against average. The 26-year-old Lehner was signed as a free agent after spending the previous three years in Buffalo. He was 14-26-9 with three shutouts and a 3.01 GAA for the last-place Sabres last season.

SALT LAKE CITY — An incredible turnaround is complete.

The Utah Jazz clinched an NBA playoff spot with two regular-season games left after beating the Los Angeles Lakers 112-97 on Sunday. It caps an unforeseen rise after the Jazz (47-33) were nine games below .500 in mid-January with a 19-28 record.

“What this group of guys has done — as far as being nine games below .500 and dealing with a lot of adversity and change — I’m really proud of their effort over the course of the season Roman Josi Jersey ,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told reporters on Sunday.

Now the question remaining is how far can Utah rise?

The Jazz still have plenty at stake when they host Golden State on Tuesday night. Not only can Utah claim the season series with the Warriors with another victory, they can keep hopes for claiming the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference alive. Portland currently leads the Jazz by a game in the race for that seed and the two division rivals face off on Wednesday.

In a real sense, every game still counts for Utah. And the Jazz don’t want to coast into the postseason.

“We want to stay right where we are at, if not, keep going higher,” Donovan Mitchell told reporters on Thursday. “We want to keep working and keep doing what we’ve been doing. If we keep playing like this we’ll be in good shape.”

Since Rudy Gobert returned to the lineup in January after missing 26 games with knee injuries, Utah has turned into a tough customer on both ends of the court. The Jazz rank 13th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (108.5) and lead the league in defensive efficiency (97.9) since mid-January.

Mitchell, who tallied 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against the Lakers, has led the way on offense. He is just the fifth NBA rookie to lead his team to the playoffs as the team’s leading scorer, joining Carmelo Anthony (Denver, 2003-04), David Robinson (San Antonio http://www.officialcoyotes.com/authe...-keller-jersey , 1989-90), Chuck Person (Indiana, 1986-87) and Michael Jordan (Chicago, 1984-85).

No one needs to remind Golden State how dangerous the Jazz have become as the regular season winds down. The Warriors (58-23) have suffered two straight lopsided losses to Utah and they fell 129-99 to the Jazz in their other visit to Salt Lake City on Jan. 27.

Golden State has limped a bit into the postseason compared to previous years. The Warriors snapped a two-game losing streak with a 117-100 win over Phoenix on Sunday behind 34 points from Klay Thompson. Overall, Golden State has lost nine of its last 16 games and defense has been a primary factor behind the slump.

The Warriors allowed 126 points in back-to-back losses to Indiana and New Orleans. Both opponents lit up Golden State from the field. The Pelicans shot 56 percent, while the Pacers shot 54 percent — including 52 percent from 3-point range.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr publicly criticized his team’s defensive effort after the loss to Indiana and reiterated on Sunday that defense needs to be an area of focus and improvement heading into the playoffs.

“My main message is we’ve got to defend,” Kerr told reporters before Sunday’s win over the Suns. “We’ve got to get back to being a top-five defensive team. I probably chose my words poorly in Indianapolis. When I said they didn’t care, that didn’t mean that they didn’t ‘care.’ What that meant to me was they didn’t box out. They didn’t get in the passing lanes. They didn’t compete at a high level.”

Defense has been questionable in Golden State’s last two losses against Utah.

In January’s loss to the Jazz, for example, Utah shot 50 percent from 3-point range and 58 percent from the field overall. All five Jazz starters have averaged double figures in their last two games against the Warriors — with Mitchell leading the way at 20.5 points to go with 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals.

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