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Islanders still seeking an identity and consistency on offense

Jordan Eberle of the Islanders celebrates his goal

Jordan Eberle of the Islanders celebrates his goal in the first period against the Devils at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 21. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The belief is there.

But with it needs to be some tangible, on-ice, blue-collar improvements for the Islanders.

"We’ve just got to get back to the identity — winning battles, competing," right wing Jordan Eberle said. "We know the way we need to play to have success. We’ve done it. You have all the ingredients there. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. I have no question in my mind that this group will turn it around and start getting going."

The Islanders brought a three-game losing streak into Saturday night’s game against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. The teams will also play in Philadelphia on Sunday night when the Islanders conclude a five-game road trip.

It’s the teams’ first meeting since the Islanders eliminated the Flyers in September in a seven-game, second-round series after the Flyers nearly rallied from a 3-1 series deficit.

But what fueled the Islanders’ first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 1993 — they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning in six games — was a four-line balance with a mix of production and physical presence. That has been very inconsistent this season, other than from Mathew Barzal’s top line with Eberle and captain Anders Lee.

Brock Nelson’s second line with Josh Bailey, but still without left wing Anthony Beauvillier (injured reserve/lower body) for the two-game series in Philadelphia, has looked out of sync after a brilliant postseason run. Coach Barry Trotz has had trouble finding set wings for third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Casey Cizikas’ trio with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin has not been the identity-setter that Trotz needs.

"We do take pride in it," Martin said. "There’s a lot of fourth lines that media and fans don’t really talk about having a huge impact on the way their team performs. We rely on four lines and Trotz calls us the identity line and he relies on us to go out there and set the tone in games and play a responsible game.

"We want to do a better job all throughout the lineup, not just ourselves," he said. "I don’t think we’ve had a lot of shifts where you really hem a team in, you get a line change and they go out there against tired guys and score a big goal. Those are the little things throughout the season that go a long way. It starts with myself. It starts with us as a line and trickles all through the lineup."

As for Nelson’s line, Trotz has emphasized concentrating on the little details rather than the goals and assists.

Nelson’s two goals through the first seven games both came on the power play and he entered Saturday’s game without a point on the road trip. Beauvillier had just one assist in his five games before getting hurt and that point came in the season opener. Bailey had just one assist in his first seven games.

Getting to the crease more consistently would help.

"They’re great pros and they take responsibility, they never shy away from that," Trotz said. "And when things aren’t going really well, you know they want to produce. It’s just not coming easy for them. So, it starts to weigh on them a little bit. One of the things I’ve always said to them is you don’t worry about producing, necessarily. Just whoever you’re out there against, make sure you’re outplaying them.

"You hear coaches say, ‘Trust the process.' For Bails and Nellie, the process right now is to make sure they’re outplaying whoever they’re out against."

The Islanders believe it will all come together.

New York Sports