Practice has not made perfect for the Islanders of late, mainly because there have been so few of them.
Could a lack of practice time explain the recent slippage in the team’s performances?
“Yeah, it does,” coach Barry Trotz said. “For any player, it doesn’t matter the sport, the reps are key for him. It’s hard to correct in the middle of the season when you’re playing every day. You get some bad habits. I think we picked up some.”
The Islanders, who will open a three-game homestand on Saturday night against the Flyers at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum after sweeping a home-and-home series with the Senators, did not practice Friday. It was one of their four mandated days off this month per the collective-bargaining agreement. But with a rotating cast of players being affected by a stomach virus, planned practices on Monday and Wednesday also were canceled.
With health returning to the team, the Islanders returned forward Josh Ho-Sang to Bridgeport on Friday off his emergency recall, likely a sign that left wing Matt Martin will be available after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Right wing Cal Clutterbuck also has missed two games with an upper-body injury.
Forward Michael Dal Colle, who also was brought up on emergency recall on Tuesday, was switched to a regular recall, one of four the Islanders have after the Feb. 25 trade deadline. He had an assist in Tuesday night’s 5-4 shootout win over the Senators and again skated on Mathew Barzal’s line with Anthony Beauvillier in Thursday night’s 4-2 win at Ottawa.
Dal Colle has two goals and three assists in 22 games for the Islanders this season. Ho-Sang, a healthy scratch in both games against the Senators, has a goal and an assist in 10 games.
The Islanders showed some improvement on Thursday night — Trotz said they played two good periods instead of the one they played on Tuesday — but the Senators still created too much traffic in front of goalie Thomas Greiss.
“We definitely had a few shifts where we got running around a little bit,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “Most of the year, that’s not been our style. It’s an area on some of the goals that is affecting us right now are those where we get out of control and aren’t able to find our sticks in front and they’re getting tipped goals.”
“We just want to get back on the right side of people,” Trotz added. “Physically, we’re fine. If you’re not in shape now, it’s way too late. It’s the mental focus.”
While Trotz believes his team needs practice reps to sharpen its focus, captain Anders Lee said off-ice work can accomplish the aims of practice.
“At this point of the year, we know how to play,” he said. “The sharpness comes from the mental detail. We can achieve that in a video session at this point of the season.”
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