Stepping onto the ice, stick in hand, Islanders captain Doug Weight modeled a slightly different look Tuesday morning at Nassau Coliseum. Instead of his full gear, the center opted for a coaches blue wind suit, skates and hockey gloves as he led the Islanders special teams units in a half-hour power play session before a full team practice.
“With Doug’s experience, he’s obviously an asset to have on this team,” Islanders forward Blake Comeau said. “Our power play is struggling and he’s the guy you want to look to. Look at the success he’s had and the numbers he’s put up in his career. He’s a very smart player and he’s got great hockey sense.”
Sidelined with back spasms since Nov. 18, Weight can still offer a lot to the Islanders young roster and interim head coach Jack Capuano plans to use his captain’s experience to his advantage.
|Doug Weight #93 of the New York Islanders warms up before their game against the San Jose Sharks on November 11, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) |
“I actually talked to Dougie and I thought it would be a good idea (to have him give the players some pointers),” Capuano said. “I saw him at the rink because he was getting some therapy and I picked his brain a little bit. I wanted to get a few ideas from him so we can build off it as well.”
Since Weight hasn’t played in the last four games, he’s watched from the press box. Sometimes watching games from above gives players a better view of the game and different areas the team could improve upon because they can see the play develop.
“He’s been around a long time,” Capuano said. “(He talked to the players about) what he sees up top during the game, puck movement, player movement not being so stagnant, getting pucks to the net, having a better net-front presence. These are things that we talk about, but sometimes a different voice is good too.”
During the half-hour practice, Weight spent time explaining plays and drawing diagrams on the white board. And when it got down to running drills, Weight was extremely verbal in leading the plays, stopping in the middle of plays and explaining how players can put themselves into better position.
“With the experience that he has, he’s the kind of guy that likes to share with other people, and I think that’s important for us,” Comeau said. “Him not being in the lineup, I think he still wants to be involved and help out any way he can. It just goes to show what kind of guy he is. He wants to win. He wants the team to win, and he wants to see guys succeed. There’s a reason why he’s the captain, and he’s one of the best for sure.”
The Islanders power play has struggled in the last month, which could be a major factor in their recent winless streak as they have failed on their last 31 attempts, dating back to November 6 and are on an eight game streak without a power play goal.
|Doug Weight #93 and Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders skates against the Colorado Avalanche on October 16, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Islanders defeat the Avalanche 5-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“We’ve got to simplify it,” Capuano said. “First of all, the breakout is to get in the zone and have good retrievals, but we’ve got to have better convergence on the puck and better convergence on the net. Then we have to make sure when we get an opportunity to shoot the puck that the puck is getting off our stick in a hurry and getting to the net. That’s the biggest thing for me. We’ve had some zone time since I’ve been here, we just haven’t gotten the puck to the net.”
But the current statistic is very different than the beginning of the Islanders season. At one point, James Wisniewski led the entire NHL in power play goals and power play points, the Islanders had a power play percentage that ranked tops in the league and the team scored between one and three power play goals per game.
“We’ve got to outwork the penalty kill,” Comeau said. “We can’t get complacent. I think it’s a privilege to be on the power play, so we have to play like it is. It can be a key thing for us in games. It can win us games so we’ve got to start producing on it.”
Even after Weight’s first practice as a coaching figure, his advice seems to be clicking with the players.
“Doug talked a lot about moving and how everybody should want the puck, get open and skate,” Islanders center Frans Nielsen
said. “I think he’s right about that. We’ve been skating a lot 5-on-5 and creating chances, but then when we get on the power play, we’ve kind of been standing around, trying to beat their guys with a pass through the box. With too many guys standing still it’s tough, you’ve still got to keep moving and skating to keep them out of position, and then you can start making plays.”
Weight will lead the power play units for another half-hour practice Wednesday morning.