VANCOUVER -- The Islanders are staying positive, even as the losses pile up and the Eastern Conference elite pull further away.
And their coach isn't pulling punches anymore, either.
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After their 4-1 loss Sunday night to the Canucks at Rogers Arena dropped the Islanders to 1-6-3 in their last 10 games, Jack Capuano declined to name any names, but he was clearly unhappy with a few of his regulars.
"There are guys who need to find their game and show some will," Capuano said. "Once again, we had a few guys take a night off. They may talk a good game to the media, but you've got to perform. We can't have guys continue to feel comfortable they'll be in our lineup every night."
Rookie Nino Niederreiter returns from his two-week conditioning stint at Bridgeport Monday and will be in the lineup Tuesday against the Rangers at the Coliseum. The leading candidates to sit so Niederreiter can play are Blake Comeau, who still is without a point in 12 games and is a minus-6, and Kyle Okposo, who looks completely lost and is a team-worst minus-7 with no goals in 14 games.
Both of them were on the ice when the Canucks scored on their first shot, the fourth time in the last six games the Isles have allowed a goal on the first shot on net. Defenseman Aaron Rome filled a space in the slot that Okposo vacated and Rome swept a backhand behind Evgeni Nabokov 1:57 into the game.
Nabokov gave up a soft goal on a long shot by Henrik Sedin just 34 seconds into the second, and the Canucks tilted the ice and controlled play for much of the period. The Islanders didn't win many one-on-one battles and were outshot 27-12 through 40 minutes, though Matt Moulson jammed in a rebound with 4:51 left in the second to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Cody Hodgson redirected Rome's point shot 2:47 into the third on a power play -- the Canucks had three power plays, the Islanders had none -- and it was 3-1. Roberto Luongo made 23 saves, including some dazzling ones, but it was already too late for the Islanders.
"We got outworked, and we can't do that," said Frans Nielsen, whose line with PA Parenteau and Brian Rolston didn't generate much. "In the second period, we were pretty much not existing out there. We've got to figure it out pretty soon."
Capuano didn't know yet who he would pull out of the lineup to get Niederreiter in. "I wish we had three guys coming up," he said. "You can't go through a whole game and not get a power play -- that's a controllable situation.
"On our team, there's not a lot of margin for error, and we had guys that didn't show up again."
Last season's 1-17-3 slide felt different, the players who went through it said, because they have been in every game during this skid. But the results are stark: The Isles have played the fewest games in the league, and they have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference (11), the fewest goals (29) and the fewest road wins (zero).
"We have stretches where we do some good things," Steve Staios said, "but we can't sustain it for 60 minutes."
The time for citing the good moments appears to be at an end. The Isles host the Rangers Tuesday night, then the Canadiens and Bruins come to town, the beginning of a jammed stretch of eight games in 14 days, all within the conference.
"It's up to all of us to do better," said Nabokov, who made 32 saves. "We all have to do our jobs."
Notes & quotes: D Calvin de Haan will have an MRI exam Monday on his shoulder after leaving Saturday's Bridgeport Sound Tigers game following a big hit. De Haan, 20, had surgery on his other shoulder nearly two years ago while in junior hockey; the 12th overall pick in 2009 is playing his first pro season and has a goal and four assists in 14 games with Bridgeport.