- Associated Press - Monday, September 26, 2011

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - If the New York Islanders‘ play on the ice is as strong as their talk off it, maybe _ just maybe _ they will escape the cellar and make a long-awaited run at a playoff spot.

They have removed the word rebuilding from their vocabulary as they enter their 40-year anniversary season and have boldly proclaimed there will be no more excuses if they finish below the postseason cutoff a fifth straight time.

“I don’t know if we should be in the playoffs or if we’re going to be in the playoffs, but I think the way these guys are thinking here, it’s, ‘We’ve got to make the playoffs,’” forward P.A. Parenteau said. “There is no other way.

“It’s a big failure for this team with the talent we have here. We’re all healthy. There is no excuse.”

The Islanders have reached the postseason only five times since their most recent playoff series win in 1993. They have finished last in the Atlantic Division each of the past four seasons, were 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference last season, and are just two years removed from having the worst record in the NHL.

So if the Islanders are going to turn things around and be one of the top eight teams in the East, they will have to jump over eight clubs that were ahead of them just last season.

A challenging task for sure, but one that they at least seem to think is doable. They have a long way to go to get close to their dynasty days of the early 1980s when they won the Stanley Cup four straight years, but they will get a reminder of those better days when they relive their past throughout this anniversary season.

“I don’t believe you can hope to be somewhere that’s not an easy place to get to,” said forward Matt Moulson, who is coming off a pair of 30-goal seasons. “The playoffs are not something up for grabs by just showing up out there. It’s a process.

“You have to be real consistent over 82 games. Our mindset is that’s what we want. We’re not hoping. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re working toward. We wouldn’t be going through all these hard practices and all this testing if we were hoping to make the playoffs.”

The Islanders have been rebuilding for several years, trying to put together a young core on a shoestring budget. While they haven’t seen tangible results yet in the standings, they do have a strong foundation that is anchored by young stars such as John Tavares.

The 22-year-old center recently agreed to a six-year, $33 million deal that will keep the 2009 No. 1 overall pick under contract through the 2017-18 season. The extension won’t kick in until Tavares‘ three-year, entry-level contract expires after the upcoming season.

It was the Islanders’ league-low 61 points in the 2008-09 season that enabled them to grab the top pick in the draft and select Tavares.

He along with Moulson, speedy forward Michael Grabner _ who scored a team-high 34 goals last season as a rookie _ and Kyle Okposo are all signed long-term, giving the Islanders hope that this group will continue to grow into a formidable opponent consistently.

“I’m confident in the players that we have in that locker room,” general manager Garth Snow said. “Our players are fit. We’ve had fast-paced practices. I feel we have a team that can win on any given night.”

That job will fall to Jack Capuano, who is entering his first full season as Islanders coach. He took over last year when Scott Gordon was fired, and slowly engineered a bit of a turnaround.

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