LAS VEGAS — The Islanders will continue their four-game western trip on Saturday night against the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. That’s where they had practice and meetings on Friday to sift through the rubble of Thursday night’s 5-0 loss to the Predators in Nashville.
Of course, Barry Trotz told his Islanders exactly what he thought.
“I was pretty firm with them today,” Trotz said. “I don’t pull a whole lot of punches in our meetings. We talk about things honestly and where we are and what we need to do. To me, that was disappointing because we’re much better than that.”
The shortcomings weren’t hard to see. The Islanders, as a group, were a turnover machine against the Predators, who played with much more intensity. Defensive assignments were adhered to only sporadically.
In response, Trotz put the Islanders through a crisp 35-minute practice at the arena with plenty of emphasis on breakouts, wall play and defensive-zone work in general.
“Clean up our game, plain and simple,” Trotz said. “I didn’t like our urgency. I didn’t like our execution, our details in terms of our commitment to being in position, to helping each other. We went through that. There was a lot of drifting [Thursday] night, which doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help our breakouts and it doesn’t help us on defending.”
It did not appear Trotz was planning wholesale lineup changes for Saturday based on Friday’s practice, though he did seem to shuffle his bottom two lines.
Derick Brassard skated between Leo Komarov and Tom Kuhnhackl, with Michael Dal Colle and rookie Kieffer Bellows skating as extra forwards. Ross Johnston moved to Cole Bardreau’s fourth line with Matt Martin in Komarov’s spot.
Semyon Varlamov is likely to get the start after stopping 16 of 18 shots he faced in relief of Thomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots in 13:33 against the Predators. That included Craig Smith’s first goal in his first career hat trick as he beat Greiss from a sharp angle 35 seconds into the first period after stripping defenseman Nick Leddy of the puck.
“We know we’re going to lose some games, we’re aware of that,” Brassard said. “I think we have a good team. The only thing we don’t want to do is beat ourselves. We could have done something as a team to avoid those goals. We just didn’t. We just don’t want to give it to the other team like we felt like we did in the first period.”
“We have so many games moving forward, we can’t really look at the past,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “We’ll learn from it and kind of keep it in the back of our head that this cannot happen again. It’s not ideal. At the same time, we’ve got to move forward. There’s so much hockey left to play. We’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Islanders beat Vegas, 3-2, in overtime on Dec. 5 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on defenseman Ryan Pulock’s power-play goal.
Vegas is coming off a 6-5 overtime win over the visiting Blues on Thursday night in which it took 52 shots.
“This team has a lot of character,” Brassard said. “We work hard, that’s our bread and butter. We win because, sometimes, we outwork teams and we’re structured. We don’t have to change anything. We just have to execute better.”