Following a tough loss Tuesday to the rival Rangers, the New York Islanders attacked Wednesday’s practice with a loosened approach.
The team took part in special teams drills and a couple of quirky games that lightened the mood for the players and coaches.
“We talked about it today – new attitude, new challenge,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We’ve got to stay positive. Special teams were a huge factor in last night’s game. But at the same time, we had some things we needed to work on today to move forward.”
Most goals during Wednesday’s practice were celebrated. Defenseman Travis Hamonic believes the atmosphere and positive attitude should help to clear the slate for the Islanders, who face Ottawa on the road Friday and Boston at home Saturday.
"Sometimes you just have to change things up a little bit and have some fun with it,” Hamonic said. “Coming to the rink and trying to put yesterday behind us and looking forward to the next game in a positive manner is a lot better than coming and being down. That's not going to do us any good. Last night’s game is over. It’s time to move forward and I think that's what we did in practice.”
The Islanders power play ranked first in the NHL at 27.8-percent, but was unable to convert Tuesday against the Rangers on three opportunities. Similarly, the penalty kill, which was ranked sixth in the league, was victimized twice on four chances. Hamonic says that with the Islanders’ continued emphasis on special teams play, the power play and penalty kill will be back on point soon.
“I don't think there's been a team that's killed every penalty in a season or a team that's scored on every power play,” Hamonic said. “Special teams have been a strength and hopefully we get back to where we feel they should be. We have the personnel in here to be the top of the league in both categories. We hit the reset button a little bit today and got back at it."
Captain John Tavares, who is centering the top line with right wing Kyle Okposo and newcomer Thomas Vanek, said the top trio needs to improve in the chemistry department. Vanek played with Tavares and Okposo at even strength and on the top power play unit, something Tavares said will get better with each practice.
“I think we’ve just got to try to go play,” Tavares said. “At times we tried to be a little too cute or we should have simplified things. When we did that we started to get more pucks to the net. We’ll get used to each other and play on our instincts with confidence and feed off each other. When you’re not trying to do too much, it leads to good success, especially with the talent we have in here. There’s a lot of room to grow.”
Capuano added that once the Tavares-Vanek-Okposo line adjusts to their new dynamic with reps in practice and games, they should be more effective in the long run.
“They might have been trying to look for him a little too much,” Capuano said. “It’s going to be a process. But we’ve got to get back to basics. [Vanek] is a character guy who really fits in the room well. In his first game, obviously there was a lot of emotion. But I thought he had some good chances. He’ll continue to play with Johnny on that power play and 5-on-5 and I’m sure they’re going to get going here.”
The Islanders will practice again Thursday before flying to Ottawa for their first matchup of the season against the Senators on Friday, Nov. 1.