The most telling conversation Islanders coach Barry Trotz had on their recent winless road trip came in Arizona.
Some Coyotes personnel noted to the coach how much not having to play against injured fourth-liners Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck impacted the Islanders’ 2-1 loss on Monday.
“They notice the Cizikas line is not there,” Trotz said. “They said, ‘That was a game-changer for us.’ You can use them against anybody. They give you some good minutes, they give you some offense, they give you physicality. They check all the boxes. The reality is, they’re not here and we have to find ways to win.”
The Islanders lost all four games and scored only two goals on their western trip. Their first four-game regulation losing streak under Trotz coincides with losing Cizikas to a left leg laceration in the 5-3 win over the Flyers that preceded the trip.
The Islanders did not practice on Thursday after flying home following Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Avalanche. They open a three-game homestand at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Friday night against the NHL-worst Red Wings, an 8-2 loser in their last visit on Jan. 14.
“We’re looking forward to Friday to figure it all out,” Anders Lee said. “You have to choose how you let the adversity affect you.”
There was no update Thursday on third-line center Derick Brassard, who exited Wednesday after being hit in the head by defenseman Ryan Pulock’s first-period wrist shot.
Friday’s faceoff has been pushed back to 8 p.m. to accommodate John Tonelli’s jersey retirement ceremony at 6:30 p.m. The four-time Stanley Cup winner will become the seventh player from that dynastic squad to be so honored as his No. 27 will be raised to the rafters. On Feb. 29, Butch Goring’s No. 91 will join Tonelli, Denis Potvin (5), Clark Gilles (9), Bryan Trottier (19), Mike Bossy (22), Bobby Nystrom (23) and Bill Smith (31), along with banners for general manager Bill Torrey and coach Al Arbour.
By then, Monday’s trade deadline will have passed and perhaps Clutterbuck, out since having his left wrist slashed by a skate blade on Dec. 19, will be ready to return. Trotz said Wednesday he hopes Clutterbuck can resume practicing with the team by Monday.
Without Cizikas and Clutterbuck, Trotz has not been able to roll four lines as he prefers, instead relying heavily on his top-six forwards. For instance, Mathew Barzal has played more than 24 minutes in each of the last two games. Barzal has gone eight games without a goal. Linemate Lee — the current No. 27 — has gone seven games without scoring. Jordan Eberle has a four-game goal drought.
Second-line center Brock Nelson scored the lone goal on Wednesday — late in the third period with the Islanders skating six-on-five — and linemate Anthony Beauvillier had the lone goal at Arizona. Josh Bailey has gone four games without a point.
“Casey is a big part of the team,” Nelson said. “Brass, too, when he goes down. When you lose that and things get shuffled around, you want guys to step up. But it’s tough to replace guys like that.”
Sign up for Newsday’s Islanders texts with a 14-day free trial at newsday.com/islestext.