TORONTO — The Islanders have another crack at the Leafs on Tuesday, a chance to put Sunday’s failure in the rearview mirror. There’s a few too many games like Sunday’s 3-1 loss in the opening half of the season as the Islanders continue to try and find ways to get consistent production.
They have now lost four of the last five and scored only three goals in those regulation defeats. Jack Capuano shuffled his top three forward lines yet again at Monday’s practice in the search for the right combinations.
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Anders Lee (no goals in 15 games) and Josh Bailey flanked John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin and Kyle Okposo were with Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome were with Mikhail Grabovski.
“We’ve got to find a way to generate some more opportunities and get more pucks on net,” Tavares said after Sunday’s loss, the 16th game out of 33 Tavares has played this season in which he was held without a point. “We’re lucky to get to see these guys up next again.”
There won’t be many changes in the rematch, other than Marek Zidlicky likely sliding back into the lineup for Brian Strait on defense. Jaroslav Halak (upper body), who was placed on injured reserve on Saturday, did not accompany the team up here.
He’s still listed as day to day. The Islanders have four games this week, with stops in Buffalo on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Saturday before returning home to face the red-hot Stars on Sunday. There’s a chance Halak could join the team on the road, but it appears Thomas Greiss will get the call in at least the next two and Christopher Gibson could make his NHL debut in one of the back-to-backs over the weekend.
But there are no reinforcements coming to shake up the Islanders sluggish offense. Trades are nonexistent in the NHL right now, with only minor swaps occurring — floundering teams such as the Blue Jackets and Ducks have been searching fruitlessly for deals for weeks. Garth Snow’s options are limited on that front.
So this Islanders group will have to snap itself out of the scoring funk that only abated for their 5-2 win over the Ducks on Dec. 21.
And the Islanders will have to reverse a peculiar, frustrating trend this season — they have been awful against the Atlantic Division, with Sunday’s loss dropping them to 1-8-2 against the other division in the Eastern Conference. They’ve scored two goals or fewer in eight of those games.
Notes & quotes: Islanders prospects had a solid Monday at the World Junior tournament in Helsinki. Mathew Barzal had a goal and assisted on Anthony Beauvillier’s goal in a 6-1 win for Canada over Denmark and goaltender Linus Soderstrom had 46 saves in a 1-0 win for Sweden over the U.S.