TAMPA, Fla. – The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders play their 15th game of the season on Thursday night as they open a two-game Florida swing against the Lightning. That moves them closer to coach Barry Trotz’s first deadline for assessing his new team’s power play.
“I think it’s still a work in progress and it will be,” Trotz said after Wednesday’s practice at Amalie Arena, of which approximately two-thirds was spent working on special teams. “Some guys are still struggling with some of the concepts, when to move the puck and when not to. We’re going to go the first 20 [games] and then reassess it, personnel-wise, making sure we have the right people in the right spots.”
The personnel was altered on Wednesday only because Jordan Eberle was held out of practice for a maintenance day. But Trotz said he expects his two power-play units to be the same on Thursday and Eberle to be available against the Atlantic Division-leading Lightning.
Trotz has maintained two consistent power-play units from the season opener, with Eberle skating with fellow forwards Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey along with defensemen Nick Leddy while defensemen Ryan Pulock and Johnny Boychuk and forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck comprise the second group.
The two units operate somewhat differently, with Barzal often controlling the flow from the left half-wall while the other unit relies on Pulock and Boychuk getting their booming shots through.
The Islanders (8-4-2) have gotten man-advantage production despite an 0-for-4 with just three shots in Monday’s 4-3, five-round shootout loss to the Canadiens that snapped a five-game win streak. They are ranked 15th in the 31-team NHL with nine goals in 44 chances (20.4 percent) and Monday marked just the fifth game this season the Islanders did not score a power-play goal.
Last season, and with former captain John Tavares as a power-play stalwart, the Islanders ranked sixth in the league at 58-for-250 (23.2 percent).
“We’ve had a lot of opportunities,” said Lee, the new captain. “We haven’t really capitalized on them as much as we’d like to, as much as we expect as a unit. It’s just figuring things out a little bit, moving the puck a little quicker, being a little bit more dynamic and being a little bit more predictable in some ways.”
Notes & quotes: Left wing Matt Martin (upper body/day-to-day), who has missed the last two games, did not accompany the Islanders on this trip. “He’s getting work done right now,” Trotz said …Trotz did not name a goalie for Thursday but indications from practice suggest Robin Lehner will get his first start since exiting a 6-3 win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 30 with back spasms. Trotz said Lehner was “close to 100 percent.”