The Islanders' Al Montoya makes a third-period save against the...

The Islanders' Al Montoya makes a third-period save against the Florida Panthers. (Feb. 21, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Time to make the hockey goal bigger?

Islanders forward Matt Moulson laughed. "As a player, I'm not going to disagree with that."

Moulson and his mates had just been shut out for the second time in seven games Tuesday night when Butch Goring, the television commentator who played for all four Islanders' Stanley Cup champions in the early 1980s, proposed the goal expansion. Goalies have gotten physically bigger over the years, Goring reasoned, reducing scoring leaguewide.

Of the 30 NHL teams, 25 are averaging fewer than three goals per game, and only one -- Edmonton, at 1.88 -- is scoring at a rate lower than the Islanders' 2.00 per game. In the search for solutions, Islanders coach Jack Capuano showed up at practice Wednesday without his goatee. "Because we haven't scored in a while?" he said. "Maybe."

Such whammies aside, Capuano, too, got a chuckle out of the net-enlargement idea. "If you talk to some of the goalies, I don't know if they'll agree with Butchie."

Sure enough, Islanders goalie Al Montoya argued that Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, which is Thursday night's opponent in the Steel City, "had nothing to do with the size of the net," which always has been 4 feet high and 6 feet across. Not that Montoya, the tallest of the Islanders' goalies at 6-2, won't continue to use his size to "make yourself bigger than the net by coming out further, essentially arriving before the pass gets there, so by the time [a shooter] looks up, all he sees is your chest."

This is not a new discussion, by the way. In 2007, NHL general managers considered a scheme to expand the goal by adding eight inches in width and four in height.

That went nowhere. And now, even those Islanders tasked with scoring put themselves in the Montoya camp of leaving well enough alone. Forward John Tavares, who has six goals in seven games, rejected a larger goal because "it's just tradition. There's ways to tinker things, but that's a touchy subject for a lot of us, just because it's been that way for so long."

Forward Kyle Okposo, still looking for his first goal, jokingly suggested "making the goalie's pads smaller," but preferred to leave the net alone. "I think the technology now, with sticks and everything, makes the guys shoot harder," Okposo said. "But if you look at it, probably 80 percent of the goals are scored right around net. You've got to go to the paint, get traffic in front of the net. Goalies are so good now that you're not going to beat them on the first shot a lot of times."

Goalies in fact are bigger. "But the whole human race is getting bigger," Moulson said. "I think it's more a thing of poise, because goalies are so athletic now. You don't really want to mess with tradition."

Notes & quotes: D Milan Jurcina (groin) likely will be available to play his first game of the season Thursday night. Only F Nino Niederreiter (groin) remains on the injury list.

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