Islanders employ outstanding penalty killing

Michael Grabner (40) celebrates his goal against the

Michael Grabner (40) celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins as he skates back to his bench during the second period of a game in Pittsburgh. (Jan. 29, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Arthur Staple

Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school

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What the Islanders have done on their penalty killing unit through seven games this season is amazing, having killed off 25 of 26 power plays thus far.

That 96 percent efficiency isn't sustainable, of course, even over the course of a 48-game season. But it is impressive, particularly for a group of penalty killers that hasn't changed all that much from last season, when the Islanders were 23rd in the NHL, with an 80.5 percent efficiency rate.

"I think it's a little bit of both -- we've changed our system a little, and the guys are doing a better job with it," said Michael Grabner, who with Frans Nielsen form the top forward unit on the penalty kill.

"We're just sacrificing more," Nielsen said. "That's what the PK is, just getting in lanes, disrupting guys, putting out a better effort than the five guys on the power play."

The two signature kills of this young season came in the last two games. In Pittsburgh, even with a 4-0 lead, the Isles had some nervous moments when Colin McDonald was ejected for a boarding penalty on the Penguins' Ben Lovejoy.

The 3:54 of power play time to open the third loomed large; the Isles allowed just one shot on Evgeni Nabokov with a two-unit rotation. Fans have gotten on Marty Reasoner since he joined the Isles last season, but his work with Matt Martin on the second unit has been excellent. Both units have pressured the point men and cleared out the slot, giving Nabokov room to see shots.

Thursday night in Newark, an ugly too-many-men penalty gave the Devils a power play over the final 1:29 of regulation. The Isles got to overtime, but the 31 seconds of four-on-three proved hairy. Nabokov was the difference there.

"We've gotten good goaltending, and your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer," coach Jack Capuano said.

 

NO CONTRACT TALKS FOR NABOKOV YET

Evgeni Nabokov has solidified his status as the Isles' No. 1 goaltender with a 4-1-1 record in playing six of seven games, and that should become seven of eight this afternoon, when he likely will be in goal to face the Devils again.

Don Meehan, Nabokov's agent, said via email that he had not had any discussions with Isles GM Garth Snow on a new contract for the 37-year-old Nabokov, who signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal in March to stay with the team.

Even with the struggles of prospects Kevin Poulin (13-10-3, 3.09 goals-against average) and Anders Nilsson (7-10-0, 3.14) in Bridgeport, it may still be a bit early to try and lock up Nabokov for next season and beyond. The veteran goaltender may be looking for more than another one-year deal with the way he's played last season and this one so far.

 

SOUND TIGERS UPDATE

Bridgeport snapped a four-game winless streak with a 5-4 overtime win on Friday night. Nino Niederreiter still leads the team with 19 goals and 36 points, but he hasn't had a point in six games; John Persson (15 goals, 24 points) has been continuing his solid play.

 

CENTURY CLUB

Matt Moulson became the 24th Islander to score 100 goals with the club last week in Toronto. Here's where he and some of his current teammates rank in Isles history:

Matt Moulson

101 goals: t-24th

178 points: 41st

John Tavares

125 assists: 30th

213 points: t-31st

Frans Nielsen

326 games played: t-49th

120 assists: t-34th

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