The Islanders dragged home from another fruitless road trip late Saturday night, still searching for the will to play a complete game and overcome their mistakes.
They have two full days of practice to do that before Wednesday's visit from the Jets at Nassau Coliseum, the first of four straight at home before a five-game road trip. The Islanders have fallen to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division with eight losses in their last 10 games for any number of reasons.
They've allowed 82 goals, third-most in the NHL; the penalty-killing unit has successfully killed just 18 of 32 man advantages in those 10 games, a 56.3 percent success rate that has the unit ranked last in the league for the season, at just 70.3 percent; and, despite the return of Thomas Vanek on Friday, the Isles' power play is 0 for its last 14 chances, dropping that unit to 21st in the league.
Of course, there are injuries -- Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) has begun his slow road back to the ice, but Thomas Hickey left Saturday's game in Philadelphia after taking a shot off his foot. Hickey was evaluated on Sunday but there was no word on the severity of his injury with the Isles off.
But the players and coach Jack Capuano believe the current group can be better, regardless of how banged up the defense is.
"We feel like we have a good team in here," Frans Nielsen said after the latest loss, a 5-2 defeat to the Flyers. In their last seven road games, the Isles have been outscored 30-13. "Special teams is not helping, and we're obviously making some mental mistakes at crucial times. But we have to believe and play our game. We know we can win when we do that."
Capuano showed greater willingness to juggle his lineup the past few games, sitting Michael Grabner in Toronto last week, then Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Regardless of lineup, the Isles' offense has been the top line, with John Tavares and Vanek, plus the fourth line, with Casey Cizikas (3-2-5 in the last five games) tied with Tavares for most points in the last five. And the bedraggled defense has contributed only two goals in the last 10 games.
So there is no one factor that has been sinking the Isles, just the combined weight of several poor areas.
"We're hitting, we're blocking shots, getting pucks on net," Capuano said after Saturday's loss. "They're just very fragile right now."