The New York Islanders are looking to find themselves in California.
Rather, the Islanders are looking to rediscover the offensive form that netted the fourth-most goals in the NHL last season. They had it early on in October, but have only scored nine goals over their past six games.
“We just haven’t done enough to score right now,” Kyle Okposo said before the team flew to California for a three-game road trip against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. “We’re close, we just have to go find it. This is a good trip for us to go out there and find ourselves, find our game and really come together.”
Travis Hamonic said the Islanders aren’t far removed from the team that won six of seven games in mid-October and that there’s no doubt in the room. The key to recapturing that swagger is to win and the key to winning on the road is to play simple hockey.
“At this point we have to grease one out,” Hamonic said. “We’re excited for the challenge. Things haven’t gone as planned over the past couple of weeks obviously, but that’s not to say that we’re playing terrible by any means.”
Defensively, the Islanders have done a good job keeping the puck out of their net. The Islanders only gave up two regulation goals in losses to the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils.
“Goals aren’t coming the easiest for our group right now,” Hamonic said. “Collectively everyone has to step up. In times like these, no one is going to get you out of it. You just have to keep working hard.”
With a home-heavy schedule in October, the Islanders have yet to play a multiple-game road trip this season. The first one won’t be easy, as California is full of big, heavy teams. San Jose is up first, as the Islanders go for their first season sweep of the Sharks since the 1995-96 season. The Islanders then head to Orange County for back-to-back games against the Pacific Division-leading Kings and the suddenly hot Ducks, who have won four straight games.
“They are good teams,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “You look at the boxscores, how they play, how heavy they are and how many shots they are putting on net. It’s one game at a time. It’s a good team that we’re playing on Tuesday. We’ll prepare ourselves to play and hopefully the guys can get rewarded for some of their hard work of late, five-on-five.”
The Islanders took two-of-three games in California last season, which became the start of a five-game winning streak for the team. They’re hoping for a similar result this time around.
“Last year we had a successful road trip out west,” Hamonic said. “We’ll get on a good road trip and try to play some greasy hockey out there and hopefully squeak out three wins.”
PELECH EARNS FIRST RECALL
With six healthy defensemen on the roster, the Islanders recalled Adam Pelech for their trip to California.
“It was a big surprise, but a dream come true for me,” Pelech said of his first NHL recall.
Pelech leads the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a plus-nine rating this season. He has two goals in 14 games, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman sees himself as more of a stay-at-home type.
“I’m just a steady defensive defenseman who keeps it simple and tries to not make too many mistakes back there,” he said.
Capuano said the Sound Tigers’ coaching staff recommended Pelech for the callup, but the Islanders were also looking to add a left-handed shot to the back end. Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield, two other highly-touted Sound Tigers defensemen, are both right-handed shots.
“It was a tough decision between a couple of guys,” Capuano said. “We went with a left shot and Adam was the guy.”