Isles need to keep poise, communicate
VANCOUVER -- Part of the reason the Islanders added veteran defensemen such as Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau and Steve Staios in the last two seasons was to make sure they had capable, poised players on the blue line.
The Islanders have not been decimated by injuries to their defense, as they have in seasons past. But there have been times, as happened Thursday in Denver as the Avalanche started to rally from a 3-0 deficit, when opponents have swarmed in the Isles' zone and everyone in a white jersey -- veteran or younger player -- has looked panicked.
"I think it starts with doing the simple thing and sticking with it no matter what's happening," Mark Streit said before Sunday night's game against the Canucks. "Either you make a really good, crisp pass or send it really hard off the glass and just kill the shift."
It's not all on the defense, obviously. A turnover by a forward in the neutral zone hangs the defense out to dry, and the Isles have had a few of those, as well. The Islanders are a younger group among their forwards, and there have been some moments when defensemen move the puck up the boards to a forward and it doesn't get out of the zone.
Another area in which the Isles have been lacking at times is communication in their own zone, particularly when Evgeni Nabokov has been in goal. Some of his goalie touches and plays for his defensemen have looked ragged; Nabokov, who started here Sunday night, made a point of having a session with his defensemen during Saturday's practice. "I felt I need to learn more about them, how they like to get the puck," he said.
"It's really about getting on the same page," said Eaton, who was the only Islander with a plus rating (plus-1) entering Sunday night. "Guys come from different teams and different words mean different things. You call something out and it's not always the command that the other guy understands."
Eaton teamed with Mottau again, with Milan Jurcina as a healthy scratch. Jack Capuano has been able to choose from the same seven defensemen who started the season on the roster. Now the goal is to get them to do more, as with everyone on the squad during this 1-5-3 slide.
Notes & quotes:D Calvin de Haan will have an MRI exam on his shoulder Monday after taking a big hit and leaving Saturday's Bridgeport Sound Tigers game . . . RW Nino Niederreiter had a goal in each of his last three games with Bridgeport and will join the Islanders on Monday.