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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
What seems to be the Islanders never-ending road trip finally comes to an end on Saturday night when the Islanders take on the Kings in Los Angeles. With only five of 16 games at home so far this season, the Islanders have had no homestand.

The road has taken the best of the Islanders young squad. After a promising start, establishing a 4-1-0 record in the first five games and finding themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the Islanders have fallen to 4-9-3, and with just 11 points they now sit at 14th. Saturday night’s game is not going to get any easier considering the Islanders have not defeated the Kings in regulation since Feb. 15, 2003.

“The Kings are off to a great start,” said Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau. “They have strong defense, it’s pretty much their backbone. They also have some high-end talent up front that works well on the power play. So we’ve had four close games here against some good teams here. We’ve played them all pretty well so we just have to continue with the game plan.”

Frans Nielsen #51 and goalie Dwayne Roloson #30 of the New York Islanders stop Frazer McLaren #68 of the San Jose Sharks on November 11, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Despite the Islanders losses, goaltender Dwayne Roloson has been consistently good in net for the Islanders. He has defended the Islanders goal in the last four games and has breached the goaltending standings, ranking eighth with a 2.10 goals against average and 10th with a .924 save percentage.

“He’s a great guy to play in front of,” said Mottau. “He competes. He comes up with the save, he never gives up on the puck and he gets out, plays the puck well and he makes the right decisions. As far as the d-man going back, it’s important to be on the same page as your goaltender and I think he’s been doing a great job not only stopping the puck but playing the puck as well.”

Coming off of a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Islanders are sure to come out of the floodgates desperate to put points on the board to help whichever goaltender Islanders head coach Scott Gordon decided to play between the pipes on Saturday.

“It’s really hard to play in their building,” said Islanders forward Trent Hunter about playing the Sharks on Thursday. “They always come out with a lot of energy and a lot of fire. I thought we did a good job of limiting their chances and we played a pretty solid road game. We just have to find a way to put more pucks in the net and keep building on the positives.”

Despite close games versus Anaheim and San Jose, the Islanders have been unable to earn a victory on their west coast trip. Dating back to the Islanders regulation win in 2003, they have faced the Kings seven times and things have not turned out well for the Islanders as they are 1-4-2 in that span. Hopefully the added motivation and desperation to win will be enough to give the Islanders an advantage over the Kings.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said Mottau. “Thursday night wasn’t as complete of a game as we would have liked but we managed to pull off a point.”

The thing the Islanders have had the toughest time with in these road games is getting on the scoreboard. Despite outshooting their opponents in most of their games, the players are having trouble finishing and as a result have only earned one point in the last eight games.

Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders races to the puck against Scott Nichol #21 of the San Jose Sharks during an NHL game on November 11, 2010 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
“We’re going in the right direction as far as our team play and our compete level,” Mottau said. “As far as moving forward, it’s something that we can build upon on this road trip and take the positives and have a good feeling in the locker room because it has been a frustrating stretch here for us.”

At the beginning of the season, the Islanders special teams were winning them games. In the first nine games of the season, they produced points on the power play in all but one game, scoring 13 goals in 46 attempts for a 28.3 power play percentage.

As of late, their slumping power play has failed to put up more than three points in 7 games (31 power play opportunities). As a result, they have a 9.8 power play percentage over their last seven games and have dropped to ninth in the standings with a 20.8 percentage.

Surprisingly James Wisniewksi is still at the top of the scoring standings as he is tied for sixth in points scored by a defenseman with 12, is first in power play assists with nine, and is tied for first in power play points with 11.

Three other Islanders forwards have also hit the double digits in scoring this season as PA Parenteau’s goal on Thursday night helped him to 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points. Matt Moulson and John Tavares also have 10 points, each have 6 goals and 4 assists.

After Saturday night’s game at the Staples Center, the Islanders will finally get to come home and play the next five of six games at the Nassau Coliseum.

“I think it’s nice to be on the road,” Hunter said. “You definitely bond a lot better with your teammates, but it will nice to get home. That’s for sure. It will definitely be nice to spend some nights in our own bed and get back to playing in front of our crowd and definitely turn things around here.”
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