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What can Barry Trotz do to shake up the Islanders' lines?

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz during the second

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

So, Barry Trotz is ticked off and looking to shake up his Islanders’ lineup.

What the coach decides to do won't ultimately be known until Thursday night’s game against the Capitals at Capital One Arena as the Islanders did not practice on Wednesday.

But Trotz did not like the lack of "playoff mentality" he saw as the Islanders opened their two-game set at Washington with a 3-2 loss on Tuesday night as defenseman Justin Schultz scored the winner on a defensive breakdown with 26.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

Trotz has not gotten the four-line balance and production he wants as the Islanders have just 11 goals in their six games. But eight of those goals have come in two of their three victories and the Islanders have scored just two goals in their three losses.

What Trotz can do to shake up his forward lines is hindered somewhat with top-six left wing Anthony Beauvillier (lower body) on injured reserve.

But Beauvillier had just one assist in his five games as the much-counted-upon second line of him, center Brock Nelson (two goals, no assists) and Josh Bailey (one assist) has struggled to replicate their postseason brilliance.

Essentially, if Mathew Barzal (three goals, three assists) and his top-line wings Anders Lee (two goals, one assist) and Jordan Eberle (two goals, two assists) aren’t producing, neither are the Islanders.

So, here’s the first question for Trotz: Does he keep Barzal’s line and the fourth line of Casey Cizikas between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck intact or does he go for full-scale changes across four lines?

Trotz could switch Lee or Eberle to Nelson’s line to spark the second-line center. He could move third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau to Nelson’s left wing and perhaps elevate center Otto Koivula from the taxi squad.

Rookie Kieffer Bellows has played five games without a point, the first four on Pageau’s wing and on Nelson’s wing on Tuesday. Does fellow rookie Oliver Wahlstrom also get elevated from the taxi squad and given a chance?

Right now, the Islanders’ taxi squad consists of defenseman Thomas Hickey, Wahlstrom, Koivula, Austin Czarnik and Dmytro Timashov, the latter two also bottom-six forwards.

The Islanders have the maximum 23 players on their NHL roster and would need to create a spot for any player taken off the taxi squad.

Leo Komarov has already cleared waivers and can be moved to the taxi squad. But other forwards, such as Michael Dal Colle or Ross Johnston, would have to clear waivers to be shuttled to the taxi squad and the organization does not want to risk losing either. Czarnik and Timashov have both already cleared.

The Islanders are carrying three goalies, hindering their roster flexibility. But there is concern that they would lose insurance netminder Cory Schneider to a waiver claim if they tried to make him eligible for the taxi squad.

Which all means shaking up his lineup for the desired effect won’t necessarily be an easy task for Trotz.

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