As the Islanders continue to look for the escape from their 13 game winless streak, interim head coach Jack Capuano continues to live by the statement that the Islanders need to worry about what they have to do to win hockey games and worry less about their opponent.
“The one message we want to send to our guys is, ‘we have to worry about what we do’ and how we approach every game and how we focus,” Capuano said. “We’re not just here to win a hockey game, we still want to strive to – it’s a long season – get in the postseason. We have to have that focus and mindset, and hopefully we just worry about what we have to do right now.”
While the Islanders skid has continued, the Columbus Blue Jackets have had success. They come to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night riding a four game winning streak.
“We know they’ve been on fire, they’re playing really well,” said Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais. “We just have to focus on what we do. This week it is little things that we need to focus on: our transitions, our own mistakes. We’ve got to fight hard, battle hard, and play a simple game as simple as we can play, and find a way to put the puck in the net, and that’s going to help.”
|Matt Moulson #26 of the New York Islanders celebrates his second period goal with teammates Bruno Gervais #8 and Zenon Konopka #28 as Nate Thomson #44 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on in a game on November 17, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Undoubtedly, the Islanders are in for a challenge.
The last three seasons, the Islanders are 4-1-0 when facing the Blue Jackets and overall are 3-2-0 when facing them at home. The Islanders last victory at home came Dec. 29, 2009 when the Blue Jackets were defeated in the shootout 2-1. But the Islanders most recent victory against the club came on the road March 27, 2010 when they defeated Columbus in overtime 4-3.
For the Islanders to have the same success against the Blue Jackets, they need to put up a few goals. Gervais said the Islanders lack of scoring may have something to do with confidence.
“What we need is to find a couple of dirty goals, get in traffic, a tip in, a rebound and then the confidence comes back,” Gervais said. “We have so much talent here. I know it’s not going to stay like this the rest of the year.”
“As a player, sometimes if you don’t score, it gets in your head,” Gervais continued. “You squeeze your stick tighter, and sometimes you’re trying too hard. I look at (Steven) Stamkos sometimes and he just shoots the puck as hard as he can, and it finds its way in.”
As a result, Capuano has been making changes to the Islanders lines trying to stir up some chemistry.
“We want to look at different line combinations obviously, and how we go along,” Capuano said. “If we hadn’t out chanced the last three teams we’ve played or had been out chanced, I would be a little bit worried right now, but it’s not like we’ve played real poorly. I thought the Atlanta game we could’ve won and the first game as well.”
Gervais chalked up some of the Islanders recent troubles to a lack of communication.
“Communication is a big part of hockey,” Gervais said. “That’s the thing we lacked early on. But you see it coming better and better. If you talk, if you communicate, it makes things a lot easier out there on the ice, if you know where guys are and what they’re thinking. Everyone is on the same page and that helps out a lot. And when you have a defensive partner that talks to you, it’s a lot easier.”
Capuano would like to see the Islanders forecheck improve and even though the Islanders haven’t had success on their power plays, he has been happy with their opportunities around the net. He hopes the guys will be able to get bounces in their favor.
“We’ve got to get pucks to the net quicker,” Capuano said. “It’s just taking us too long for their goalie to set, to get pucks to the net. That’s one thing that we’ve got to do, and it’s controllable on their part. So sometimes, when you get the puck on your stick, you’ve got to know what you’re doing before you get it. Hopefully that can change a little bit here for us.”
|Rick DiPietro #39 of the Atlanta Thrashers makes a save against Anthony Stewart #22 of the New York Islanders at Philips Arena on November 21, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Making it harder for the oppositions’ goaltender to save pucks will undoubtedly be important, but so is having a great goaltender in their own net. Whether the Islanders decide to play Rick DiPietro
or Dwayne Roloson between the pipes, both goaltenders have success when facing the Blue Jackets.
Despite the Islanders recent overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, DiPietro had a great performance, saving 33 of 34 shots in regulation. His hot hands may lead Capuano to go with DiPietro on Wednesday night as the goaltender recorded the only shutout between the two clubs on Dec. 23, 2006.
“I said when I first got here, I thought (DiPietro) was one of the best,” said Capuano. “My first practice – I thought he was our best player that first day that I was here. (After resting for 18 days), I think he’s rejuvenated. I think he’s rested a little bit.”
“I’ve known Rick, and he’s a competitor, and he wants to win more than anybody,” Capuano continued. “It was disappointing obviously in the Atlanta game, but I’ve got all the confidence in both our goalies. But Ricky was probably our best player in Atlanta.”
Regardless of his confidence in DiPietro, Roloson played in both games against the Blue Jackets last season and recorded both an overtime and shootout victory, so Capuano might be inclined to give Roloson the start.
Whoever gets the start, the Islanders will have confidence in their netminder.