Isles' Grabner encouraged, but still looking to end drought
LOS ANGELES - Michael Grabner, now at 25 games and counting without a goal, hasn't ruled out trying something to break this drought. Maybe a witch doctor or a hypnotist or something.
"I'm open to suggestions," he said with a weak smile after his and the Islanders' latest failure, a 5-1 loss to the Blues in St. Louis. Grabner had three Grade A chances in the opening period.
He hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway just a few minutes in, then raced onto another loose puck during a penalty kill and snapped a shot just wide of the Blues net. He and Frans Nielsen raced off on a two-on-one later in the first, with Jaroslav Halak stopping Nielsen's shot.
The last 25 games have not all been like that one for Grabner. He had a few games where he wasn't generating much and wasn't using his speed the way he can.
But now that he's been a bit more engaged of late, the goals still aren't coming. And scoring goals is what Grabner has to do to be effective, having tallied 70 goals in his first three seasons with the Islanders.
"If I score on that first chance, I think it's a whole different game," Grabner said. "I have to keep skating, keep working and keep getting the chances. If one goes in, maybe that starts something."
The Islanders practiced in the suburbs of L.A. yesterday with a few lineup changes in the works for tonight against the Kings. Brock Nelson, a healthy scratch the last three games, will likely go back into the lineup. Grabner won't be the one coming out, but one from among the other scuffling regular forwards will -- Josh Bailey (no goals in 18 games), Peter Regin (no points in 16) or Pierre-Marc Bouchard (no points in seven) are all candidates.
The Isles also spent part of their practice on their abysmal penalty kill, which has succeeded just 70 percent of the time this season, by far the worst in the NHL and one of the all-time worst percentages if it were to continue over a full season.
Grabner works on the PK as well and he saw a change after the Blues converted three of their first four power plays.
"On the last two PKs [when the Isles were down 5-1], we weren't thinking, we were just doing what we're supposed to do," he said. "We have to be more instinctive out there."