Barry Trotz believes in the so-called hockey gods who can shift the fate of a closely played game one way or the other. But he has a stronger belief in goal production.
That’s what the Islanders need when they face the Hurricanes in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series on Wednesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, having scored just once in losing the first two games at Barclays Center.
“Must win, that’s really the only mindset,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “Put the puck in the back of the net and get the win.”
The Islanders could be without right wing Cal Clutterbuck, a member of their identity-setting fourth line, after he was helped off the ice late in the third period of the Hurricanes’ 2-1 win in Sunday afternoon’s Game 2. Clutterbuck did not participate in Tuesday’s fast-paced, hourlong practice in East Meadow, but he did travel with the team.
“I always say there’s hockey gods,” Trotz said. “If you keep doing the right things, they usually even it out. Sometimes, they’re mean and you can’t understand it but they’re getting you ready for, hopefully, a future success.
“[But] only one thing matters,” Trotz added. “How many goals you get and we haven’t scored enough for Robin [Lehner]. He’s given up three goals in two games and we’re down, 0-2. We’ve got to score some goals and maintain our identity as a good defensive team.”
The Islanders lost Game 1, 1-0, in overtime while taking 31 shots. In Game 2, they had three shots hit the crossbar or the post in the third period and finished with 27 shots on goal.
“I think we’re getting our chances,” center Casey Cizikas said. “We’ve had some really good chances to score, it’s just a matter of finishing. If you’re not getting chances, that’s when you’ve got to start worrying."
Tom Kuhnhackl took Clutterbuck’s usual spot on Cizikas’ right wing at Tuesday’s practice along with left wing Matt Martin. Rookie Michael Dal Colle, a healthy scratch the first six playoff games, drew into Kuhnhackl’s spot on Brock Nelson’s right wing with Josh Bailey.
Clutterbuck had eight goals and 15 assists in 73 games this season but his hard-edged play led him to miss nine games because of injuries over five absences.
The fourth line never operated as efficiently without him.
“I think they’re best when all three of them are together,” Trotz said. “But whoever I put in there has to understand that they do a good job of communicating. I think it’ll be a little bit different. It has to be. They’ve played so many minutes together. They know where each other are instinctively.”
“I think guys are just itching to get in,” Cizikas added. “Losing him is definitely big, what he brings to this team and what he does on the ice. But we have guys that want to be out there that are waiting for their opportunities and they’re going to go out and try and prove themselves.”
Regardless of who is in the lineup, the Islanders are looking to get more traffic to the Hurricanes’ crease and create more rebound opportunities. Technically, the Islanders have yet to shoot the puck into the net since Mathew Barzal’s Game 2 power-play goal was a feed across the crease that deflected in off defenseman Jaccob Slavin’s stick.
Barzal had a potential goal waved off in Game 1 because of goalie interference against captain Anders Lee and defenseman Devon Toews had a goal waved off in Game 2 because it was ruled a kicking motion.
“It’s a little bit of adversity,” Nelson said. “We’ve just got to go through it.”