Islanders getting ready to embrace the ‘grind’ of the bubble

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Life will be put on hold once the puck hits the ice in Toronto.

Emotions are bubbling among the Islanders as they prepare to leave their families behind and travel to begin life in the NHL hub-city bubble.

“It’s going to be a mental grind,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said after scrimmaging on Friday and with another practice set for Saturday. “Playoffs are always a physical grind, I think this will add a mental grind to it as far as being away from family, not being able to go home, sleeping in a hotel bed, and all of that different stuff that’s out of our control.

“I think that’s going to throw a little bit of a wrench in there for certain guys, certain teams. It’s going to be a team that can mentally just focus on playing hockey and playing their best, really.”

As the Islanders continue adjusting to the circumstances, they are planning team-bonding activities while also abiding by the social distancing rules.

“We’ve got some ideas floating around,” captain Anders Lee said during a Zoom call with reporters. “We’ll have a common room with a bunch of things set up, hopefully, with a pool table and all of that stuff. We were looking into a “Family Feud”-type of night, get our competitive juices flowing and take our mind off of things, and try to enjoy our time in the hotel as much as we can.”

The Islanders travel to Toronto on Sunday and will get situated inside the bubble before taking on the Rangers in an exhibition game on Wednesday. Game 1 of the play-in round against the Panthers is Aug. 1.

During a shortened five-game series, the pressure will be on the Islanders. Though coach Barry Trotz said he expects the players to arrive in Toronto at a high level, he emphasized just how quickly the path could change on their journey to the Stanley Cup.

“You get down two games here, you’re already at do-or-die,” said Trotz, who led the Capitals to the title in 2018.

As for the Islanders new fathers, Matt Martin and Lee, they will be leaving their newborns behind while Mayfield abandons his summer wedding plans.

“We actually were supposed to get married [Saturday],” Mayfield said, referring to his fiance Emily Bayless. “That was a little change of plans as far as having a wedding versus flying to Toronto. So, it’s a little bit different, but exciting.”

Mayfield said his wedding date is now set for August of next year.

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