Staois helps anchor stable Islander defense

Steve Staios #44 of the New York Islanders

Steve Staios #44 of the New York Islanders argues a first period penalty call with referee Dean Morton #36 in a game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. (Sept. 30, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Islanders' headliners are doing all the right things through four games. So is the supporting cast, which may be even better early news for the team than John Tavares' hot start.

Pucks won't always go in for Tavares, so keeping the puck out of your own net is just as important. Only the Red Wings have allowed in fewer than the Islanders' 1.50 goals average through four games.

"I think there's just overall a little more awareness of being good defensively," Andrew MacDonald said. "We've watched a lot of video and seen the good things we've done and the things we need to correct."

One thing you can't teach is health -- the Islanders have used the same six defensemen for the first four games, which is a minor accomplishment for a team that used 14 defensemen last year.

They have already lost Mark Katic (shoulder surgery), who was likely to be the first call-up from Bridgeport, and seventh man Milan Jurcina (groin) is still struggling to get back from his training camp injury.

But a group that didn't have anyone play more than 64 games last season is looking for a little continuity, and it has achieved that so far, and some of it from a surprising place.

Steve Staios was just looking for a job, any job, when he came to camp on a tryout after 15 seasons and 936 NHL games. The 38-year-old has played with captain Mark Streit since opening night, logging an average of 17:08 a game and playing more than just responsible defense in his own zone.

"The thing that's surprised me is his ability to jump up in the play," coach Jack Capuano said of Staios. "He knows when to go and when to stay back."

Staios made a smart, aggressive play to break up a Rangers rush at his own blue line on Saturday and start a rush the other way that Matt Moulson finished for the Isles' first goal in their 4-2 win.

"I knew coming here I had to earn a spot, but I also knew I had a lot of game left in me," Staios said. "I don't even really know how to explain it -- I always had confidence that, in the right situation, I could contribute."

Notes & quotes: G Rick DiPietro (concussion) skated for a second straight day and took some shots on goal, saying he felt good. He will skate again this morning and then the team will decide if DiPietro will go with the Islanders to Tampa this afternoon for the team's two- game Florida trip.

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