NEW YORK (WFAN) — As his Islanders fight for a playoff spot, Doug Weight says he’s enjoying his first taste of being an NHL head coach.
Weight took over as the Isles’ interim coach after Jack Capuano was fired Jan. 17.
The team has responded well to the shakeup. After going 17-17-8 with Capuano behind the bench, the Islanders have gone 16-9-4 under Weight.
“That’s exciting to me,” Weight told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday. “I feel a lot of confidence in coaching this group and these guys. And I think we’re a playoff team, I do. I think certainly we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next three weeks, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been exhilarating. I’ve been working as hard as I can to help them.”
With 11 games to play, the Islanders (33-26-12) trail Toronto by three points for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Weight said it was important to him to put his own fingerprint on the team as soon as he took over.
“No disrespect to the way Jack did things or anyone else, I believe that you’ve got to do things your own way and you have to believe in how you’re going to coach,” he said. “And I certainly had some changes. I changed a couple of things structurally. It’s awful tough in the middle of the season, but we’ve slowly got to them.
“I think the way I treat the players, whether it’s good, bad and different on the bench, the way I run the bench, matchups — everything’s changed a little bit.”
But Weight admitted it was somewhat uncomfortable stepping into Capuano’s role.
“Part of me, I’ve been with Jack since I retired, and he’s a friend, and I looked up to him and learned a lot from him,” he said. “So it was a tough scenario.”
SINGING HO-SANG’S PRAISES
Weight said he has been impressed with rookie Joshua Ho-Sang, who has three goals and three assists in his first 10 games.
“I think we knew when we drafted him, I think his talent level was at the echelon in the top four or five picks in that draft,” the Islanders coach said. “And he is tremendously skilled. He’s quick. He’s just got great vision. All the offensive tools, instincts — I’d love him to shoot the puck a little more. But really, he just sees the ice well, and he just creates room and makes people better.”
HALAK COMING BACK?
Weight was noncommital about whether the Islanders might call up goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was demoted to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers in December. But Weight admitted the organization is considering it.
“Organizationally, I promise you we’re going to do everything we have to, to win games, and if we feel like that’s the best thing, then you will (see Halak with the Islanders),” Weight said. “We’re talking a lot about it. … We’ll make our decision. I’m not going to say yea or nay, but I think you can hear in my voice, when we coach, when we play, we’re going to put the best lineup that we feel is going to win that game, and Jaro certainly has to be — we admire what he’s been doing there (in Bridgeport) and the way he’s been approaching it, and we’ll make those decisions in the near future.”
Weight said he hopes to see defenseman Johnny Boychuk back on the ice in six to nine days. Boychuk has been out since March 3 with a lower-body injury.
“He skated the last three days or two days,” Weight said. “So I’m excited. You know, you miss a guy like that. … Getting Johnny back will be big. He takes a lot of minutes. He plays a simple game, but he’s dangerous. He’s got a great shot, he competes hard, he’s great in the room, and I’m looking forward to getting him back.”