Late in an otherwise productive Islanders practice, coach Scott Gordon abruptly stopped everything on the ice, yelled loudly at the power-play unit, added an expletive and then flung the puck the length of the ice. It looked like a fastball, but it was meant as a change of pace.
Change is what the Islanders need more than anything, 18 days into a season that is winless so far. Gordon probably will change lines Wednesday night, with center Frans Nielsen expected to make his season debut and Kyle Okposo skating with him instead of with John Tavares. On the same theme, the coach insisted the group improve its work effort during the extra-man drill Tuesday. On the other hand, players recognize that some of their problems lately have been caused by trying too hard.
It is a delicate balance, trying to go from no wins to one.
"The key is understanding, as coaches and players, that there are going to be mistakes," said Gordon, whose team is 0-3-3 entering the game against the Hurricanes Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum. "It's how you respond to the mistakes. If you make a mistake, you cover your own rear end. If you're the next line out there, you certainly don't want to make the same mistake. Somebody has got to grab the bull by the horns and say, 'You know what? We need to step up here.' "
In fact, the Islanders say they have been working on ways to say just that. They had a players' meeting Sunday and a trip to the Jets game. "There are different ways to react to different people and that's exactly why we hang out off the ice," Bruno Gervais said. "We get to know each other. We know a lot more about how to reach someone."
Mark Streit, the power-play quarterback who has one goal and three assists, said, "We've got to keep it as simple as possible. Move the puck, don't try to go through seams right away. Move it around and as soon as you've got a shot, you take the shot. It's not a secret, but sometimes guys try too hard to work for the perfect play."
Gordon is trying something new with his lineup. The coach is taking Okposo off the one productive line (with Matt Moulson and Tavares), replacing him with Doug Weight, and moving him alongside Nielsen, who is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery. Nielsen says he feels healthy and free of the frustration of watching without helping.
"I love playing with Kyle. You give the puck to him, you'll get it back," he said. "He's our best player, so of course I'm happy to play with him."