ST. LOUIS - Perhaps in a bygone Islanders season, even the most recent one gone by in 2013-14, the Islanders blowing three-goal leads and losing consecutive games would be cause for heads hanging low or some players to feel that they're still not good enough to compete with the big boys of the NHL.
The biggest difference this season, as the Islanders spent Wednesday here watching video, talking and not practicing (they play the Blues on Thursday night), is that the Islanders have built a strong foundation beneath them. Despite Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Blues at Nassau Coliseum and Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Wild, the Isles are still 10 games over .500 and still tied for the most wins in the league.
"We've got a good thing going here and the last two games doesn't change that," Kyle Okposo said. "We just have to be smarter, especially in our own zone."
The last two games went from 3-0 leads to regulation losses in different ways, but Jack Capuano identified one commonality.
"We're up 3-0 on St. Louis and [Nick] Leddy takes a bad penalty on [Steve] Ott, we're up 4-1 on Minny and Kyle takes a bad penalty on [Mikael] Granlund," Capuano said. "They both get power-play goals and that gave them some life. We have to be more disciplined."
And a bit tougher in and around their own net. Chad Johnson, the last-second starter in Minnesota on Tuesday, gave up four third-period goals that all came within a few feet of the goal. Nino Niederreiter swept in the winner with 4:33 to play from his stomach after getting position by outmuscling Brian Strait right in front of Johnson's crease.
"We have to be stronger there, myself first and foremost," Leddy said. "It's not just about being physical, it's about making smart decisions and being in the right position."
There was quite a bit of fallout from a couple of ugly moments on Tuesday. Wild defenseman Keith Ballard was released from a St. Paul hospital Wednesday, but he has multiple facial fractures and a concussion after a hard hit from Matt Martin that left Ballard convulsing on the ice in the second period.
Martin was not penalized and faces no further discipline from the NHL. The same can't be said of Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who got a two-game suspension Wednesday night for his forearm to Brock Nelson's head late in the game.
Nelson would have practiced Wednesday had the Isles taken the ice.
Notes & quotes: Capuano said Jaroslav Halak, who was pulled from his start on Tuesday because of an unspecified minor ailment, is feeling better and could play against his former team Thursday night . . . Travis Hamonic, Johnny Boychuk and Casey Cizikas, all on injured reserve with upper-body injuries, skated with skills coach Bernie Cassell back on Long Island Wednesday.