Lee-Tavares-Bailey, Kulemin-Nielsen-Okposo, Kennedy-Nelson-Strome, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck
Clean up and shake up.
That was the message from Johnny Boychuk and Jack Capuano at the Islanders practice Friday, as the team prepares to host the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks today at 1 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.
Boychuk, a veteran defenseman and Stanley Cup champion, said the Islanders need to clean up the little details in their game after dropping a 3-2 decision to the LA Kings on Thursday night.
“If we play a full 60, we can beat anybody,” Boychuk said. “We should know it by now, but we took a period off and mental mistakes cost us the game. We were in it, but one bad shift and they score a goal.”
Capuano said now isn’t the time to panic, or stray away from the system that’s led the Islanders to a 44-26-5 record and second place in the Metropolitan Division. He praised his team’s defensive play of late, as the Islanders have allowed four goals over their past three games and have allowed two or fewer (excluding empty netters) in six of their last seven.
“In the last few games, we haven’t given up much,” Capuano said. “I like the way we’ve been playing defensively. We just have to find some run support for our goalies.”
While he won’t change the system, Capuano is making lineup changes for today’s matinee. Michael Neuvirth is the starter in the first of back-to-back games this weekend. Neuvirth is 1-2-1 in four games with the Islanders and hasn’t played since a 26-save performance against the Chicago Blackhawks on Mar. 17.
“I know my job here. If Jaro needs a rest, I have to be ready to go,” Neuvirth said. “I’ve been practicing well and I feel good about my game.”
The coach hinted at other lineup moves, touching on Lubomir Visnovsky’s status. Visnovsky skated at the team’s optional practice Friday and Capuano said there was a “real good chance” Visnovsky will be back this afternoon.
The Islanders beat the Ducks 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 5 in Anaheim, but the Ducks are a different team this time around. They were without their top two scorers, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and their top two goaltenders, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, when they last played the Islanders.
Getzlaf leads the Ducks in assists (44) and points (68), while Perry’s 32 goals are a team high. Andersen had a firm lock on the Ducks starting job to start the season, rattling off three separate six-game winning streaks, but is now battling Gibson for the Ducks crease. Gibson is 10-5-0 since being recalled in early February and gives the Ducks a second solid option in goal.
The Ducks boast the best record in the Western Conference, with 47 wins and 101 points.
“They are a team that people picked to get to the Stanley Cup finals,” Capuano said. “They are a big, veteran, physical team. This is a good test for us.”
Puck drop is at 1 p.m.