Following a 1-0-1 this weekend, the mood around the Islanders room was optimistic at Monday’s practice, as the team prepares for three Western Conference opponents this week.
Surrendering a two-goal lead Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets obviously wasn’t in the plan for the Islanders. Forward Matt Martin says the team is viewing it both as a missed opportunity and as a better team effort than they had opening night at New Jersey.
“We're happy with three points but we're not satisfied either,” Martin said. “We're disappointed that we gave away that win against Columbus, but it's a long season. You can't dwell on those kinds of things. We have a game tomorrow night that we have to focus on and put that behind us. We have to start playing to our potential and that starts tomorrow.”
The team practiced Monday in preparation for a relatively unfamiliar opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes, who will visit the Coliseum Tuesday. The Islanders and Coyotes haven’t met since January 2012, and Phoenix’s last trip to Long Island was in December 2010.
Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has matched up against the Coyotes 51 times in his NHL career, but even he says he needed a refresher on Phoenix’s tactics.
“Last season, we only played against Eastern Conference teams,” Visnovsky said. “I don’t know all the changes Phoenix has made in the last couple of years. I need to look at their roster. I know their coach, Dave Tippett, because he was one of our coaches my first year in LA. He loves the offensive style. He loves the players who can skate and puckhandle. So we’ll need a good defensive effort and we’ll need to use our team speed to beat them.”
The Islanders coaching staff went over video with the players Monday to prepare the team. Most of the players haven’t seen Phoenix, Chicago (Friday’s opponent) or Nashville (Saturday’s opponent) in a couple of seasons, a long enough time for roster changes to alter the makeup of those teams.
“Meetings are probably a little longer when you play Western teams because you don’t know them very well,” said forward Frans Nielsen. “But I think we’re good enough to be able to go out and play our game and not worry too much about who we’re playing against. We have a good enough team that we should be able to beat any team if we play our best.”
Martin agreed, saying that the focus Tuesday will be on playing Islanders hockey, as opposed to trying to counterpunch what the Coyotes throw at them. The fifth-year forward said that’s what the team did against the Blue Jackets, and it showed early on, as they surrendered only four shots through the first period.
“We play our best when we're not taking many chances and we're trying to outwork the other team in their zone,” Martin said. “When we start taking risks like we did in Jersey, we have a lot of turnovers. Nabby really held us in there in that game. We were better against Columbus and we know that. We just have to come in against Phoenix, get pucks deep and play simple. It might look like a feeling-out process, but we're not giving them many chances and that's where we want to be.”
Monday also marked the first full practice for forward Cal Clutterbuck since he went on Injured Reserve with a leg laceration on Sept. 17. Head coach Jack Capuano said Clutterbuck could be available as soon as tomorrow.
“Today was his first real practice with us, even though he skated with the team the other day,” Capuano said. “I want to see how his conditioning is. He could be ready tomorrow, but maybe an extra couple of days will help him too.”
Puck drop Tuesday is set for 7:00 p.m. from Nassau Coliseum. To get the special social media ticket discount for that game, as well as many other first-half matchups, click here.