There was a lot to like from the Islanders back-to-back wins over the weekend.
The team produced nine goals, four standings points and the power play scored three times in its first four opportunities. To top it off, Brock Nelson woke up Sunday morning tied for the NHL’s scoring lead with six points.
Despite the excitement surrounding an emotional Nassau Coliseum opener Saturday night, grateful yet humble Islanders players were reigning themselves in at practice Monday.
“There are a lot of areas of our game that need to be better,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I know they've had some success, which is good. We want to get that winning attitude and have that swagger about us, but we still have a few guys that are taking shortcuts and it can't happen."
The Islanders aren’t trying to kill their momentum, but they are trying to kill a few more penalties. The PK is 5-for-9 – a 55.6% kill rate – which needs to improve for the Islanders to generate long-term success.
A place where Capuano wants to start is shortening shifts and having fresher legs out on the ice. Five forwards have seen at least three minutes on the penalty kill (Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolay Kulemin, Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen). Capuano wants to see them trade off at a much quicker pace.
“You want to be out there for 18 to 22 seconds,” Capuano said. “Maybe we have six or seven guys to have short shifts and put a little bit more pressure on so they're not fatigued.”
Nielsen – who is averaging 2:27 on the PK and 3:06 on the PP through two games – said the penalty kill played better in Carolina than the stat line indicated, but acknowledged that they should have been harder on the puck Saturday night.
“With loose pucks in the slot, we weren’t too strong on our sticks,” Nielsen said. “We have to clear the puck every time. When they shoot the puck we have to be there. They won the pucks back, so we have to do a better job of that and their entries were a little too easy.”
The PK killed off their last two opportunities, which Nielsen said is good for morale on the shorthanded unit. If the Islanders 4-for-8 power play is unsustainable during an 82-game season, the same logic applies to the penalty kill.
“We’re on the right track,” Nielsen said. “We just have to keep believing in what we are doing. It’s a long season and I’m sure the PK will be there.”
De Haan Practicing
Calvin de Haan (lower body) practiced with the Islanders for the first time this season, after starting the year on Injured Reserve, retroactive to Sept. 23.
Head Coach Jack Capuano did not reveal de Haan’s status for Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers.
“He’s been skating with our injured guys, but we don’t know where he’s at,” Capuano said.