Reeling Isles starting brutal five-game road trip

Michael Grabner of the Islanders tries to control

Michael Grabner of the Islanders tries to control the puck during the first period against Luke Schenn of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Oct. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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ST. LOUIS -- The Islanders may not have come to the right place to begin the arduous task of digging themselves out of yet another first-half hole, but any success the team has as it begins a five-game road trip will have to come from within.

The Blues, Thursday night's hosts, have actually lost two straight games to drop to 18-5-3, but they are 11-1-2 at home. Beyond Thursday night, the trip gets even harder: The Kings, Ducks, Sharks and Coyotes, the top four teams in the Pacific Division, have totaled only seven regulation home losses all season.

And the numbers for the Islanders have been dreadful. They have lost seven straight games in regulation on the road, are 0-5-2 in their last seven overall and, perhaps most predictive of their chances of winning night after night, they are 0-13-2 when scoring two or fewer goals.

That number was damning on Tuesday, when the Islanders had multiple chances to extend a strong 2-0 start, then opportunities to restore a two-goal lead in the third, most notably Frans Nielsen's penalty- shot try with the Islanders holding a 2-1 advantage. Sidney Crosby scored 1:07 after Nielsen didn't, tying the game.

"I'm not a stat guy, but we're 0-fer when we score two goals a game," coach Jack Capuano said. "We needed that third goal."

And of late, if it's not coming from one of the Islanders' top- line forwards, it's not coming at all. John Tavares, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo have been scoring and generating chances, but they haven't gotten any help; the droughts for the Isles' second- and third-line forwards have reached epic proportions.

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Michael Grabner has no goals in 24 games and no points in 18 straight games. Josh Bailey has gone 17 games without a goal and has two points in that span. Nielsen, who was among the top 10 NHL scorers in the first six weeks of the season, has no points in six straight.

Peter Regin has no points in 15 straight, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has no points in six. That's almost half the regular starting 12 forwards.

"There's some guys we definitely need more from," said Capuano, who may look to get rookie Brock Nelson back in the lineup Thursday night. Ryan Strome, the Isles' top forward prospect, was just named AHL Player of the Week after recording three goals and three assists in three games, and he is in the top five in AHL scoring for Bridgeport.

Strome does not appear to be on the verge of a call-up, what with the Islanders' needs on defense and in goal taking precedent. But the veterans' droughts have to be addressed at some point.

Notes & quotes: Goalie Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and defenseman Brian Strait (upper body) joined the Islanders for practice Wednesday before the team traveled here. Both are still at least a week away from returning to action.

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