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Islanders' Jack Capuano is looking for players with work ethic

Jack Capuano skates during training camp at IceWorks

Jack Capuano skates during training camp at IceWorks in Syosset. (Sept. 14, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jack Capuano and his coaching staff have made some changes to the Islanders' style of play, but nothing major. The major changes the Isles need to go from also-rans to contenders will, Capuano said, come from the players themselves, who will need to hit the ice fast when training camp opens on Friday.

"Did we make some changes to our penalty kill? Absolutely. Did we tweak our D-zone coverage? We did," Capuano told Newsday on Monday. "But you can draw up any system you want. If you don't work hard and execute it well, it doesn't matter what you want to play -- it won't work.

"We know what we need to do to be successful. We did it for a large part of our playoff season [2012-13], we did it for the last 20 or so games last season when we were missing a lot of our big guys and had kids who just wanted to work to stay in the lineup. So we can win with our system. We have to have the work ethic to make it successful."

Capuano made one change to his staff, adding Greg Cronin while Brent Thompson, an assistant the past three seasons, returned to be the head coach at Bridgeport. There's been plenty of change behind benches around the NHL -- Capuano is beginning his fifth season with the Islanders, making him the longest-tenured coach in the Metropolitan Division.

And Capuano is relying on the competition among a crowded roster to lift the Islanders out of their perennial first-half doldrums. They have had November swoons the past three full NHL seasons that dropped them from contention early in the season, and Capuano has presided over the last two of those.

"We're going to throw a lot at them the first three days [of camp]," Capuano said. He has divided the camp into three groups and the team has three straight days of workouts before two-thirds of the camp heads to St. John's, Newfoundland, to play split-squad games with the Senators on Monday.

"We have to find out who's going to play the way we need them to play to win us games, period," he said. "I'm sure the guys are well aware of how they need to play and what they need to show us.

"I've talked to a lot of our guys all summer long and they're saying the right things, about how they want to work. Now it's time to show us they mean it."

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