The Islanders believe they are closing in on consistency. Playing consecutive games against last-place teams bolsters that notion, though after Tuesday’s road game with the Blue Jackets the Pacific-leading Kings visit Thursday.
Despite Monday’s snowstorm, most players arrived for an optional practice at IceWorks. It was not a grueling workout, just plenty of target practice, which basically started Sunday in an 8-1 rout of the Oilers.
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Coach Jack Capuano still seemed a bit bothered by recent losses to the Capitals and Red Wings. “We did some good things, the guys haven’t been rewarded,’’ he said. “Coming out of that game [against the Oilers] with the two points was big for us.’’
Kyle Okposo had a hat trick and an assist against Edmonton and now leads the Islanders with 41 points, one more than John Tavares. “I think all year our whole team has been just a half inch off here and there,’’ said Okposo, who will play in his 500th game as an Islander Tuesday night. “We probably could have 20 more goals throughout the year. That would be definitely nice for everybody, but I just think as long as you keep working and playing the right way you’re going to get rewarded.
“The last eight games we played some pretty good hockey. I know that our record is not perfect in that stretch, but if we play like that we’re going to win hockey games.’’
Capuano’s take on consistency is that it begins with each player. “It’s a team game, I understand,’’ he said. “But as an individual you have to make sure that you’re focused and mentally dialed in every time you step on the ice to win your battle. This is a tough league as we know. Every night it seems — especially in our division — teams are getting points. Consistency in a lot of ways, it starts in net with our goaltending to give us a chance to win and right out into our five-on-five and special teams play.’’
The best goaltending since All-Star weekend has come from Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube, albeit in small samples. Top goaltender Jaroslav Halak had a tough loss to the Capitals and was pulled in Detroit after giving up four goals in less than two periods.
Capuano never reveals his starting goalie until the morning skate on game day. Greiss won against the Oilers on Sunday. The Islanders are 3-0 against the Blue Jackets, with Halak in goal for two of the victories. Greiss wouldn’t venture a guess on who will start against Columbus.
“I’m not too worried about it,’’ Greiss said. “I don’t think too much about that. When I get the call I play, if I don’t then I don’t. Jaroslav has been playing well, too, this year. You just work hard in practice, keep your mind sharp. We’ll see what happens. Whoever starts, starts.’’