P.A. Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders controls the...

P.A. Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders controls the puck against Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers. (Dec. 26, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Coming off three straight losses that were increasingly poor performances from game to game to game, the Islanders went through a hard-skating hour of practice and contemplated some hard truths.

Most notably that the same issues -- consistency, team-wide effort and grittiness -- plaguing the Isles this week were a problem in October, when the team turned a 3-1-0 start into 5-11-4 with a month of poor play.

"It seems like we don't learn quick enough from our mistakes," said P.A. Parenteau, who was moved off the top line for Tuesday's practice to the right side with Frans Nielsen and Brian Rolston, who will likely return Thursday after missing five games with a concussion. Kyle Okposo took Parenteau's spot on the right with Matt Moulson and John Tavares.

"It's halfway through the year, so I guess we shouldn't still be talking about this," Parenteau said. "But we are and we have to fix it."

Jack Capuano had a few extra bodies in for the practice -- Jay Pandolfo, who has missed a month with a broken foot, skated as a 13th forward and Steve Staios, out for the last six with a concussion, practiced as a seventh defenseman.

But Capuano knows it's not a matter of who's in the lineup. "We have to grind teams down. It's time to understand that's who we are," said Capuano, who had Josh Bailey centering Michael Grabner and Nino Niederreiter and said he hadn't decided if the new lines would stay for Thursday's visit by the Flames.

"The frustrating thing is it's not consistent," Capuano said. "You know when they play a certain way they have success, because we've seen it."

The Islanders have four of their next five games against Western Conference teams, and they are 3-2-4 against the West this season -- a small plus. The other game is against the Hurricanes, who are two points ahead of the Islanders in the East. If they want to dig out of their last-place hole, the Islanders could do worse than to start against teams traveling a few thousand miles for a game, which the Flames and Oilers will do this week.

"The times we don't have momentum, we have to find a way to work to get it back," Tavares said. "Just stay hungry, stay aggressive and do what we need to. We're trying to put ourselves back in the [playoff] picture."

Notes & quotes: G Al Montoya (concussion) is still in the early stages of his recovery and has yet to skate since he was injured a week ago. G Rick DiPietro (groin) skated and said he's feeling better . . . Also out was F Micheal Haley (bruised hand), who was hurt in a fight on Monday.

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