New York Islanders No. 18 Ryan Strome shoots on goal...

New York Islanders No. 18 Ryan Strome shoots on goal during the Group A session of team training camp held at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Credit: James Escher

Jack Capuano has been loath to call out his players in public during his four-plus seasons as Islanders coach, particularly in singling out anyone for criticism.

He benched Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey for a game during their lengthy scoring slumps last season, but he privately and publicly encouraged both players during the bulk of their struggles.

In the past, questions about the team's shaky goaltending usually were met with prompts to discuss the situation with Mike Dunham, the team's goaltending coach.

But this season, Capuano has been noticeably more pointed in his public comments. With an influx of veterans via free agency and trade, Capuano might believe it no longer is necessary to protect his players; rather, with expectations higher, the gloves can come off when discussing certain Islanders.

Ryan Strome may be the one Islander who's been discussed the most, in positive and negative ways. After only a few days of camp, Capuano didn't hesitate to name Strome as someone who needed to improve his effort and attentiveness.

That the 21-year-old responded strongly enough to earn a roster spot would indicate that Capuano's approach is working.

"It doesn't bother me at all, because I know the coaching staff wants to get the best out of me and so do I," Strome said. "Anything that's said, good or bad, is designed to help me be the best I can be. I take it all as helpful advice."

After ringing up his second two-assist game in the first three at Madison Square Garden, Strome might have expected to hear praise from Capuano. But Strome's line, with Mikhail Grabovski and Brock Nelson, turned the puck over too much and allowed the Rangers to generate a few scoring chances.

"I thought he was average," Capuano said of Strome that night.

Capuano is known as a superstitious fellow. Perhaps he'll wait until the Isles lose a game to start praising his players.

Extra bodies on the penalty kill

Capuano and assistant coach Greg Cronin, who runs the penalty-killing unit, made a small change after the Isles gave up four power-play goals in the first two games against the Hurricanes. They added two forwards to the PK rotation, creating three two-man forward units instead of two.

In an attempt to keep the forwards fresher, Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin joined Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson.

"The goal is to get the puck out, get your 15, 20 seconds on the ice and get off," Clutterbuck said. "You don't want to get trapped out there, but this way, maybe if you are on for a few extra seconds, you're not as gassed."

It worked against the Rangers somewhat. The Islanders still surrendered eight shots in three Rangers power plays but had their first clean PK sheet of the season.

The Sharks converted their only power play Thursday night and needed exactly seven seconds to do so, leaving the Isles at 61.5 percent (8-for-13) entering Saturday night's game, better only than that night's opponent, the Penguins.

"We've had some bad first PKs and then we've gotten better as the games have gone on," Clutterbuck said. "We need to be better from the start."

Offense from defense

Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have done more than could be expected through the early portion of the season. Each scored two goals in the first four games to give the Islanders an aspect of their offensive game they haven't had in a decade: two legitimate offensive threats from the blue line.

Mark Streit is the last Islander defenseman to score more than 10 goals, netting 11 in 2009-10. The team's defensemen totaled 23 goals last season.

The Leddy-Boychuk combination is reminiscent of the Roman Hamrlik-Adrian Aucoin tandem, which totaled 23 goals in 2001-02, the last time the Isles had two defensemen with double-digit goals in a season.

That also was the last time the Islanders started a season 4-0-0.

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