The Islanders held their usual practice Wednesday. They heard the usual exhortations from the coaching staff. What this struggling team needs -- now 2-4-2 in its last eight games in what has become another unpleasant, early season slide -- is not the sound of frustrated panic from its coaches.
"You have to stay positive," Jack Capuano said yesterday, after a blown third-period lead and a 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday. "These guys know what we need to be doing and they have to stick with it. There's no time for panic or being overly critical. They know."
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The variety of issues that have plagued the Islanders after a 2-0-1 start reads like a "greatest misses" collection from the past four seasons of early swoons: Blown leads; failure to make hay on home ice; inconsistent goaltending and a mix of ailments among a defense corps that is struggling to stay afloat with just six healthy bodies.
On Tuesday, veteran Radek Martinek, signed a week earlier because Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) are both out, made two gaffes that led directly to two third-period goals. Martinek hopped the boards on a change without a corresponding defenseman coming off, leading to a too-many-men penalty and the Rangers tied it with their second power-play goal of the night.
Later in the third, Martinek inexplicably cruised over to the left side on a harmless-looking three-on-three Rangers rush. Martinek basically cut off defense partner Matt Donovan and left the middle unguarded, allowing Benoit Pouliot to cruise the middle and beat Evgeni Nabokov for the winner with 6:14 to go.
But for now, general manager Garth Snow has no plans to shuffle the defense corps. Bridgeport played in Hartford Wednesday night. If one of the Sound Tigers defensemen stood out, then Snow could consider a recall to simply give Capuano an option heading into Friday's game in Ottawa.
Capuano is loath to bring the hammer down, though he was fuming on Tuesday night after Martinek's two errors. The Islanders have been within a goal or tied in the third period of all but one of their games so far and the coach doesn't see his team failing in all areas.
"We're right there. I keep saying it, but we are," Capuano said. "We've got things to correct, even when we win. But this team competes and when there are breakdowns, they know what they need to do. It's just a matter of going out and doing it."