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Fourth line has all the elements

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Through the first eight games of the season, the play of the Islanders fourth line has been a bright spot night in and night out. Veteran forwards Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner along with sophomore winger Matt Martin are relied upon for different elements of their individual games.

“They understand what we are trying to do,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Those guys (on the fourth line) are in constant motion in the offensive zone, moving their feet and getting to the net. That’s really what we need to do.”

Each of them brings a separate component to the line, making them harder to contain.

Matt Martin skates against Ruslan Fedotenko at Nassau Coliseum on October 15, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“Jay and Marty are two older guys that have been around for a long time,” Martin said. “They make it easier for me out there. They are always communicating with me and we all want to play the game the same way. Get the puck deep in their end, cycle it around and break their pressure.”

Martin is a power forward who bangs bodies along the boards, and currently ranks fifth in the league in hits with 33, but still has the skill to convert on scoring opportunities as evidenced by his first goal of the season Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

“(The play) started in the neutral zone with a chip and not trying to beat anybody 1-on-1 when it’s not there,” Capuano said. “They used the back of the net and Marty Reasoner protected the puck and went low to high. We got the shot through and Matty Martin was in front of the goalie.”

Even before Martin’s goal, they had been creating offensive chances night in and night out.

“We had some (chances), the last few games,” Reasoner said. “We’ve had some good shifts and created some good chances and just hadn’t gotten rewarded for it. It was nice to finally get rewarded, but we feel like we have been playing that same way for a while and knew if we kept working, it would finally happen for us. It was good to finally break through.”

Reasoner, the fourth line’s centerman, is known for winning draws. His play this year has him first amongst Islanders centers inside the faceoff circle as he’s won 49.5 percent of all draws he’s taken. He’s also got the vision to create plays.

“Marty seems to win those big draws when you really need them,” Martin said. “He’s a smart player. He protects the puck down low and he created that goal for me (Thursday).”

Pandolfo can be depended on in almost any situation, but playing well defensively is what he’s most known for. His effort every night and his willingness to sacrifice his body and block shots have positively affected the Islanders efforts each night.

“Jay is amazing at blocking shots,” Martin said. “You can see how much of a difference he has made on our penalty kill. Marty as well, he’s a great penalty killer, but Jay makes at least one or two big blocks and that’s important.”

Ryan Carter assists goaltender Jose Theodore defend against a shot by Marty Reasoner on October 22, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Capuano added, “When you watch the PK video, he’s always in it. He’s a veteran guy who takes a lot of pride on the defensive side of the puck, especially on the PK, so extremely the way that he’s playing.”

The combination of Reasoner and Pandolfo is one of the major reasons the Islanders penalty kill is ranked fifth in the league with a 90.6 percent success rate, killing 29 of 32 of the opposition’s power plays. Pandolfo has 2:32 shorthanded, while Reasoner has 2:18, third and fourth amongst forwards on the shorthanded TOI/game depth chart respectively.

“I think that’s the staple for us, being good on the PK and good in defensive situations late in games, it’s kind of what we pride ourselves in,” Reasoner said. “When we can chip in offensively, it’s obviously a bonus. The last few games we’ve come together pretty well. We hope to keep the ball rolling and keep getting better.”

As for having two players on the same line, one with the given name Marty and the other as a nickname shortened from Martin, the latter Marty laughed when he said, “It can be confusing sometimes, but we figure it out. Sometimes when Cappy (Capuano) calls we don’t know who is going, especially on the PK, but most of the time it is (Reasoner) so that’s okay.”

It’s a double dose of Marty with a shot of Pandolfo and they’re sticking to it.

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