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Barry Trotz searches for energy for Islanders' power play

Mathew Barzal and his Islanders teammates late in

Mathew Barzal and his Islanders teammates late in the third period against the Devils at Prudential Center on November 11, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

One in-game personnel change was made to the Islanders’ power play, not that it impacted the outcome.

But will Thursday night’s 4-0 loss to the Devils as the Islanders went 0-for-3 on the man advantage with just four shots, while allowing a shorthanded goal lead to further personnel changes?

Saturday’s practice before the Islanders conclude their season-opening, 13-game road trip against the two-time Stanley Cup-champion Lightning and Atlantic Division-leading Panthers on Monday and Tuesday nights, respectively, may offer a clue. The Islanders were off on Friday.

Defensemen Ryan Pulock and Noah Dobson swapped spots after the Islanders’ first power play on Thursday yielded Janne Kuokkanen’s first-period shorthanded goal. Pulock then joined the first power play unit with Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Anders Lee while Dobson began skating with Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, Oliver Wahlstrom and Zach Parise.

Still, the Islanders’ power play is now 4-for-28 (14.3%) on the season, 28th in the NHL, and has yielded two shorthanded goals. They’ve gone 0-for-8 over the last four games after a 2-for-4 performance in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Predators on Oct. 30.

"It’s decisions and execution, plain and simple," coach Barry Trotz said after the Islanders were shut out for the first time this season. "That’s where it starts. We have to make a play through someone, which you’re going to have to do, especially at the opposition’s blue line. Or we throw it into someone’s feet. Little things like that.

"Guys want to be on the power play. But we’ve got four power-play goals and we’ve given up two. We’re a plus-two in that area. It’s not good enough. It’s murder for us."

The issue for Trotz is there aren’t necessarily a lot of in-house candidates to move into a power-play role.

Third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the most obvious candidate, after he played on the power play last season. But Trotz has relied on the versatile Pageau on the penalty kill this season. Gritty Cal Clutterbuck or sizable Matt Martin could also be considerations as a net-front presence, though Clutterbuck is also a key penalty killer.

Any healthy power play generates pucks on net and benefits from booming blue-line shots. Pulock certainly has that ability. But both he and Dobson have just one power-play assist each this season. The other four defensemen the Islanders have used this season – Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene – are all more known for their defensive work, though both Pelech and Mayfield have decent shots.

Notes & quotes: Defenseman Braydon Coburn announced his retirement after ending his career playing three games for the Islanders late last season. Overall, Coburn played 983 games, also dressing for the Atlanta Thrashers, Flyers, Lightning and Senators and winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2020. "Walking into NHL buildings for the last 16 years, surrounded by hockey’s greatest players, coaches, management, trainers, officials, and fans, has been an incredible privilege," Coburn said in a statement released by the NHL Players’ Association.

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