Isles look to defense for more offense

Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic with the shot on Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic with the shot on goal in the first period. (Mar. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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Scoring has not been an issue for the Islanders through seven games this season -- at least, not from the forwards, four of whom are already averaging better than a point per game.

But for Jack Capuano, the Isles' system begins with speed out of the defensive zone, buttressed by a defenseman jumping into the rush or generating offense from the point once inside the opposing zone.

There have been a few good forays by the Isles defense, most recently by Travis Hamonic on Thursday -- he sped down the right wing, carried the puck deep into the Oilers zone, lost it, regained it and fed Josh Bailey for the game's opening score.

That is what Capuano wants to see from his defensemen. With only two goals from his defense, both on the power play, it's safe to say Capuano wants to see more.

"You have to pick your spots," said Andrew MacDonald, who has yet to record a point despite being the runaway leader in ice time for the Isles at 25:19 per game. "When you're out against the other team's big lines, it's even more important to pick the right time to jump in the rush. It has to be a good read or you put your team at a disadvantage."

General manager Garth Snow counted on the entire defense being able to make up for Mark Streit's absence this season. Streit led the Isles defensemen in goals each of his four seasons in uniform; Matt Donovan stepped into that void and does have one of the two goals from the blue line corps, but his confidence to step up into the play while keeping a strong defensive position hasn't quite matured.

So it's on the rest of the group, all returnees from last season, to be more offense-minded.

"It's definitely been a focus, that when we get the puck in our zone and you're the net-front 'D', you've got to go," said Thomas Hickey, like MacDonald still without a point through seven games. Hickey does have 10 shots on goal, second to Lubomir Visnovsky among the team's defensemen.

"It can take a bit to find your timing with joining the rush," said Hickey, in his second season under Capuano's go-go style. "You want to be strong in your own zone before you think about getting up ice."

That is perhaps the saving grace for the Isles' defensemen so far: They have been good at limiting quality chances, especially the last two games as they head into Saturday's visit by the Hurricanes. If the Isles' forwards can continue the pace they're on, the best offense from the defensemen may be simply more good defense.

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