Pandolfo joins tough Isles penalty kill

Paul Martin #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins plays Paul Martin #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins plays the puck against Jay Pandolfo #29 of the New York Islanders. (Oct. 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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The Islanders had one of the better penalty-killing groups over the final 50 games of last season, thanks in large part to the emergence of Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen, who combined to lead the league with 15 shorthanded goals and were constantly pressuring opposing defensemen every time a power play tried to set up.

The Islanders finished last season ranked 12th on the penalty kill; they're ranked fifth through eight games this season (not including Saturday night's contest), having killed off 29 of 32 power plays, thanks again to the Nielsen-Grabner duo, plus a few other important factors.

"I think we've been getting such good goaltending, that's a huge part of it," said Jay Pandolfo. "Our goalies have been stopping shots and keeping rebounds away from their guys."

Pandolfo is another big factor, leading all Islanders forwards with 10 blocked shots, including a couple memorable ones on penalty kills -- he got in front of one on a five-on-three advantage for the Wild in the second game of the season, and blocked Evgeni Malkin's shot in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Pandolfo, who signed with the Isles after a training-camp tryout and 13 seasons with the Devils, and Marty Reasoner, who signed a two-year, $2.2 million deal after 12 seasons with five teams, have formed a solid forward pair behind Nielsen and Grabner.

"They've been doing the PK a long time," Grabner said. "They really keep their lanes so well, block shots, win faceoffs. They kind of give teams a different look than me and Frans."

Along with goaltending, the consistency of the Islanders' defense so can't be underestimated. All six defensemen can play the penalty kill, unlike in recent seasons when inexperience has forced Jack Capuano (and Scott Gordon before him) to pile ice time on just a couple defensemen.

Mark Eaton, who averaged the least even-strength ice time (12:39) among the six defensemen who played the first seven games, led all Islanders defensemen in shorthanded ice time, averaging 2:49 of PK time per game. He's been good, not just there, as well.

 

Need to shoot to score

Capuano may have trotted out the "can't score if you don't shoot" chestnut for some of his forwards who are sorely lacking in shots on goal, much less points.

Blake Comeau came into Saturday night's game averaging 13:16 of ice time in his six games; he has one shot on goal and no points. Josh Bailey averaged 13:46 through eight games, and he had no points and just five shots on goal.

Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss was the third time in the Islanders' first eight games they had fewer than 20 shots on goal. They had fewer than 20 five times all of last season.

 

Sound Tigers update

Bridgeport had an identical 3-4-1 record to the Islanders record entering Saturday night. Mikko Koskinen made his first appearance in goal for the Sound Tigers, coming on in relief of Kevin Poulin on Oct. 22, then taking a 3-2 overtime loss to Worcester on Friday.

None of three goaltending prospects has shined yet in the AHL. Poulin is 1-3-0 with a 4.71 goals-against average, Anders Nilsson is 2-1-0 with a 3.30 GAA and Koskinen is 0-1-0 with a 1.99 GAA.

 

Plus/minus

Plus:John Tavares' ability to win faceoffs on the power play has directly led to a couple of big goals.

Minus: Tavares is still below 50 percent on faceoffs (60- for-122, 49.2 percent) overall, and the Isles don't have a go-to faceoff winner.

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