Skip to main content

Islanders could switch lines in search for spark

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- With the New York Islanders having produced all of two goals over their past three games, coach Jack Capuano acknowledged there could be a shakeup in his forward lineup.

The top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes combined for one goal over the final two regular-season games and Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. As the Islanders search for answers for Game 2 on Friday, swapping out Tavares' linemates remains firmly on the table.

"We haven't generated too much from that line," Capuano said, "so you probably could see some movement around."

As NHL coaches are wont to do during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Capuano said he would not discuss lineup changes specifically. But he did drop some hints.

Displeased most with his team's forecheck during Game 1, Capuano suggested that energy fourth-line types Matt Martin and/or Casey Cizikas could be plugged into more prominent roles in an attempt to jump start New York's offense at some point during Game 2.

"We'll start a certain way, but if guys aren't getting on the forecheck and doing what we've asked, sometimes a Matty Martin, sometimes a Casey Cizikas, those role guys can get up on those lines and get in the forecheck and get some puck possession to help us out too," Capuano said.

The Islanders' morning skate was optional; roughly half of the forwards participated. So there weren't tangible hints about possible lineup or line changes for Game 2.

Capuano and multiple players said the team's top two lines (Frans Nielsen typically centers Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo on their second unit) would stay the same to start the game. It's clear that with the Islanders staring a 2-0 series deficit in the face they have a short leash.

"We'll start this game tonight with the combinations that we have," Capuano said. "It could be for a period, it could be for two periods, I don't know. We have to generate more -- and there's not a whole lot of patience that we can have to make sure that we do that."

Wing Michael Grabner is an option for a more prominent role. One of the fastest skaters in the NHL, his speed has created problems in the past for a Penguins team whose strength is not its skating.

Cizikas and Martin bring much different elements to a top-six role.

"We didn't do a good enough job (Wednesday) getting the puck behind their D and making them pay," Nielsen said. "They had too easy of a night, so we've got to skate more and make it uncomfortable on them going back for pucks. And that's something those two guys can do."

In terms of personnel changes, it is likely Capuano scratches veteran Marty Reasoner after inserting him into a lineup for the first time in four weeks for Game 1. On defense, Matt Carkner is a possibility to make his 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, likely taking the place of rookie Thomas Hickey.

Tavares, the Islanders' top goal and point producer, said he won't change his game whether it's Moulson, Boyes, Grabner, Martin or Cizikas on his wing.

"I try not to do a whole lot different," Tavares said. "I just try to make it tough on the opposing team to try not to be able to read what I do. I try not to be easy to read and tough to play against. So if I have more time, more space, I try to be more deceptive and make the right play, whether it's dish it off or get some more shots on net."

The Islanders' projected Game 2 lineup:

Matt MoulsonJohn TavaresBrad Boyes

Josh BaileyFrans NielsenKyle Okposo

Michael GrabnerKeith AucoinColin McDonald

David Ullstrom - Casey CizikasMatt Martin

Andrew MacDonaldTravis Hamonic

Brian StraitMark Streit

Matt CarknerLubomir Visnovsky

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Eric Boulton, Joe Finley, Thomas Hickey, Jesse Joensuu, Anders Lee, Radek Martinek, Marty Reasoner

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.