SUNRISE, Fla. — One game into a season is way too soon to make definite conclusions about performance trends. But the Islanders know parts of their play must improve for Game No. 2.
"I thought that we didn’t play for each other," coach Barry Trotz said after Friday’s practice at FLA Live Arena, where they will face the Panthers on Saturday night to continue a franchise-record 13-game road trip.
The Islanders lost their season-opener to the Hurricanes, 6-3, on Thursday night as they were plagued by turnovers, unnecessary penalties, loose defensive play and an 0-for-3 power play that treated the blue line like a force field and was outshot 2-0.
"We had a lot of cheat in our game," Trotz said. "A lot of drift in our game. I’m big on gaps and spots and angles and we just drifted. Not good enough in our battles. Not firm enough. That being a forward in a puck battle or a defenseman in a net-front box out. Faceoffs weren’t very good [30-for-67]. The game is all about mistakes. You don’t compound your mistakes. If you make one mistake, you don’t make two or three."
"It’s just executing," Kyle Palmieri said. "We were a little sloppy coming up the ice and that caused us to play a little slower."
The good news is there’s plenty of time to correct those issues.
Trotz put the team through a brisk 40-minute practice that ended with special teams work and seemed to indicate he would stick with the same lineup against the Panthers.
"A lot of times, you want the group to respond," Trotz said. "I may make one lineup change just based on a couple of guys that got banged up."
Matt Martin (non-roster/injured/ankle) went through the full practice. But he was out early to work with Thursday’s scratches Leo Komarov, Kieffer Bellows and defenseman Sebastian Aho, likely signaling Ross Johnston will remain in Martin’s fourth-line spot despite logging a game-low 5:50 of ice time.
Trotz also kept his two power-play units intact for Friday’s practice as defenseman Noah Dobson skated with Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, captain Anders Lee and Palmieri while defenseman Ryan Pulock worked with Zach Parise, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Oliver Wahlstrom.
"It felt like we struggled a little bit with our entries," Parise said. "We couldn’t get in their zone clean. As a whole unit, we have to help the centers with faceoffs and that early possession right off the draw."
"We know what we have to do better," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "It’s getting to our game, that Islander identity we always talk about."
Notes & quotes: Goalie Semyon Varlamov (injured reserve/soreness) participated in the latter portion of practice to take shots from the extras. Trotz said there is still no timetable for Varlamov’s return to the lineup but said when he is ready to play it will be for the Islanders and not a rehab assignment with the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.