The last time the Islanders faced the Tampa Bay Lightning they were 4-1-2 and in the midst of a month-long road trip. Playing at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Islanders were able to defeat the Lightning franchise in overtime as forward
In the 11 games since, the Islanders have not had the same offensive success they had when they first played the Lightning. As a result, they are winless in 10 straight games. On Wednesday night there will be a new look behind the Islanders bench at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as Jack Capuano, former head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, was named the interim head coach of the Islanders on Monday morning.
“I think there’s a good feeling (inside the locker room),” said Islanders forward Blake Comeau. “It feels like the page has been turned. We know the players in here are the guys that are going to turn this thing around. I think the (coaching) change shows that the organization hasn’t
|Blake Comeau #57 of the New York Islanders battles for position against Nate Thompson #44 of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on October 21, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) |
given up on this team yet and they haven’t given up on playoffs. That’s a nice feeling. That’s the way we want to go out. We need to get a good start here Wednesday and start this thing on the right foot.”
The Lightning also started their season strong, winning four of their first five games, but they too have seen brighter days as they have lost six of their last seven games. Hopefully the Lightning’s current streak will help the Islanders creep out of their scoring slump as the Islanders have only scored eight goals in their last eight games.
“Obviously we’re going to have to play with a big effort tomorrow,” said Islanders enforcer Zenon Konopka. “We’ve played well at home and we have to bring a lot of energy and outwork our opponent. That’s going to be the key.”
While they must put points on the board to be able to win, Konopka, the League leader in both penalty minutes (84) and fights (8) this season, said, “We have to be physical with them. I think if we physically take over the game that’s going to be the key to success tomorrow.”
Although playing hard and tough against the Lightning will be an important aspect to the game, the Islanders main focus is on their own game, their compete level and how well they come out to play.
“We’re not too worried about what other teams are going to do,” said Comeau. “That’s one thing that Cappy (Capuano) pointed out. It’s more about what we’re going to be doing and it’s going to be nice being back at home here after being on the road for the last month. We have to put some wins together with this homestand.”
Even though the Islanders defeated the Lightning in their first meeting this season, the Islanders lost three of the clubs four meetings in 2009-10. But the Islanders are driven to get themselves out of this streak and hope to turn it all around on Wednesday.
Capuano has already made small changes to lineups hoping to generate some chemistry for scoring opportunities. In Tuesday's practice, PA Parenteau
was moved back to the top line, while Doug Weight centered the second line with Comeau and Josh Bailey
. Michael Grabner
returned to the third line with Nielsen and Trent Hunter.
Capuano also made changes to the defensive pairs, restoring the partnership between James Wisniewksi and Mike Mottau on the top line while Mark Eaton
and Radek Martinek make up the second pairing. Dylan Reese
, called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Monday morning to fill in for Jack Hillen, and Bruno Gervais are the final pair.
|Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on October 21, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) |
While Capuano hopes this line variation will help, he hasn’t made many other tweaks to the Islanders system as he wants to watch the players a bit and get a feel for what needs to change and what is working well before he makes a drastic change.
“We want to wait a little bit (before we make changes)," said Capuano. "There are some things that we might talk about a little bit, but we’ve only had a couple days here to prepare for the game. We don’t want to give them too much overload. We want them to be relaxed and go out there and have some fun. That’s the most important thing right now because they’ve lost quite a few games in a row. So if they can just go out there, play relaxed, have our compete level where it needs to be, that will give them the chance to win the game.”
The players are very respectful of what Capuano is trying to do with the team, especially when it comes to playing a more simple game with a little offensive freedom to make plays that feel comfortable instead of forced.
“He’s just given us a lot of options,” said Comeau. “He’s given us options offensively. He still wants guys around the net, but in the offensive zone and off the rush, he’s giving guys options to make the best decision because sometimes in a game things don’t play out the way they’re drawn up.”
Islanders center Frans Nielsen
added, “When we get the puck he wants us to read and react. Everyone should want the puck, get in the open space out there and nobody can hide. Read and react, get open, have fun and compete hard.”
Most of all, the Islanders are excited to play Wednesday night at the Coliseum because they feel like they are getting a new beginning.
“We talked about how this is a chance for a fresh start,” said Nielsen. “We are going to start from scratch. Our season starts now. We know we’re about seven points out of the playoffs so we definitely have to start winning, but we talked about starting over from scratch and hopefully we have enough time to catch up with the rest of these teams.”
As Nielsen noted, the Islanders are only seven points out of a playoff spot and there are still 65 games left in the regular season, plenty of time to make up three games worth of points.
In order for that fresh start to pay off, the Islanders need to step on the ice hard and they must be prepared to play a full 60 minutes. “We have to come out there, work hard and compete hard against them,” said Nielsen. “I know that with the guys in this locker room can turn it around and start getting some wins.”
For all the players on the Islanders roster, Wednesday marks a new beginning.