After Tuesday morning’s practice at Iceworks, the Islanders left for a five-day road trip that will see them play their next three games in California. Their first stop is Anaheim’s Honda Center as the Islanders face the Ducks in a 10 p.m. (Eastern Time) matchup Wednesday.
“I’m glad we are going to the west coast now after the last two games versus Ottawa and Philadelphia,” said Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. “I think we have something to build on. We don’t have any points (in our last two games), which is obviously discouraging, but in saying that, we did a lot of things that for me (were positive).”
After starting the season on a high note with a 4-1-2 record, the Islanders have lost seven straight games. But the mood inside of the locker room is one of hope and anticipation. The Islanders are not a team known to give up when things aren’t going their way.
|Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck during a NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes on November 3, 2010 at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“When we come out to practice, I’ve always found the guys to be attentive. They work hard,” Gordon said. “I think they are encouraged (right now). In the standings it doesn’t show, but I think the players saw some results as far as the amount of opportunities that we generated against Philadelphia that we hadn’t been creating (recently).”
The Islanders have had success against the Ducks in the past. The last four years the Islanders have posted a 2-1-1 record against Anaheim, earning at least one point in three out of the four games. While in California, the Islanders will also face the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.
“We know it’s going to be three tough games, but I think everybody likes what we did last game,” said Islanders center Frans Nielsen
. “Even though we didn’t get any points in the standings, we played a good game. The last two games have been good for us and now it’s time for us to get some wins. It’s going to be tough, but we are at a pretty good record against the Ducks the last few years, so I think everybody is excited and ready to play.”
Last season, the Islanders lost to the Ducks in overtime (March 19, 2010) but they won the season prior (January 21, 2009) and recorded a shootout win (October 11, 2006) during the Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup Championship season. The Islanders only regulation loss to the franchise in the last four years came on February 5, 2008. The Islanders have a 10-6-5 all-time record versus the Ducks.
Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski is probably the Islander most looking forward to playing the Ducks as the alternate captain played the last season and a half in Anaheim. “It should be a good time,” said Wisniewski. “Hopefully we get two points out of it.”
Even though he can’t wait to face his old teammates, the defenseman knows that the game is going to be challenging as the Ducks are currently on a three game home winning streak (two of which have been against Eastern Conference foes).
“They’ve been playing well,” Wisniewski said. “They started off kind of slow, as they were 1-4 to start the season. But they’ve always played well when they’ve played at home, so it’s going to be a tough battle. They play(ed) (Tuesday night) so we’ll play them on the second half of their back-to-back and maybe we can take advantage of that.”
The teams will have a tough special teams matchup as the Islanders rank seventh in power play percentage with 22.9 while Anaheim ranks sixth with 23.1 percent. Anaheim’s power play record at home is second overall with 28.6 percent, while the Islanders record on the road is seventh with 23.7 percent.
“I thought our power play against Philadelphia was as good as it has been,” said Gordon. “The end zone time, the way we moved the puck and the chances we generated… (Even though) we only got the one goal, it looked like we were going to get another one at the end there. That part is encouraging.”
Islanders center John Tavares
and Ducks forward Teemu Selanne each have four power play goals, the most on their respective teams. But most impressive, are Wisniewksi’s nine power play assists and 11 power play points which rank him first in the League standings.
|James Wisniewski #20 of the New York Islanders plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers during the game at the Nassau Coliseum on November 6, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Andy Marlin/AM Photography) |
“We slumped there for a while and for about three games we didn’t score a power play goal,” Wisniewski said. “That’s been costing us. Winning these special teams battles at the beginning of the year, we were getting wins. Now that we aren’t scoring some goals we switched up the lineup to see if we could find some chemistry.”
As a result, Nielsen and Doug Weight have exchanged places on the power play. Nielsen joins Wisniewski on the point with Tavares, Matt Moulson
and PA Parenteau
. Weight has moved to the wing on a line with Josh Bailey
and Blake Comeau where Rob Schremp will man the point with Mike Mottau.
“We’ll always keep looking for the perfect power play units, but I like what we did the last game there and even part of it in the game before that,” said Nielsen. “So I think we just have to find a way to look at what we did earlier on. We were shooting the puck and we got some dirty goals in front of the net by doing it simple. So I guess that’s what we have to do.”
The penalty kill will also be an important part of the game. The Islanders rank 16th on the penalty kill at 83.3 percent, while Anaheim ranks 19th with 81.2 percent. At home, Anaheim is second worst in the league ranking 29th on the penalty kill with 72 percent. On the road, the Islanders are 11th with an 85.4 percent ranking.
“Our penalty killing has been back to where we want it,” Gordon said. “The last couple games we’ve been disciplined as far as not taking bad penalties which is good.”
This west coast trip will close out the part of their schedule that saw the Islanders play 12 of 15 games on the road. After this, the team is looking forward to playing at home for a little while.
“You always want to play at home,” said Nielsen. “That’s where you feel most comfortable. So yeah, it’s going to be nice that it’s over soon, but hopefully we can finish up strong here (in California) and get some wins.”