There is no panic in the Islanders' locker room, not at this stage of the season. But a rather demanding hour of practice Monday was a reminder from Jack Capuano that his team needs to nip a two-game losing streak in the bud before it turns into something all too familiar to this group of players.
"We just got away from doing some of the little things, the intangibles that make us successful," Capuano said after practice at Nassau Coliseum, where the Isles will play their next four games, starting with Tuesday night's visit by the Sabres. "Singular focus -- do your job every shift and our work ethic will dictate our results."
The Isles' 2-0-1 start has turned into a 2-2-1 record after consecutive 3-2 losses to the Blackhawks and Predators on the road. The next stretch has six of seven games at the Coliseum, which sounds like a recipe for wellness until you glance at the Isles' home record the previous three seasons.
They were 17-18-6 in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, which makes sense, given that the team finished out of playoff contention. But last season's 10-11-3 home record, which was an even uglier 5-11-2 before a late run, was a sign that the improved Isles didn't improve much in front of their own fans.
"It's going to be a huge week," Frans Nielsen said of the homestand, which brings in struggling teams. The Sabres are 0-6-1, worst in the NHL, and the Oilers (1-4-1) and Hurricanes (2-2-2) are in after that.
Capuano juggled his forward lines Monday and hinted that Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the veteran wing signed as a free agent in July, will return to the lineup after being scratched in Nashville. Bouchard skated with Nielsen and Josh Bailey, two of the Isles' best forwards so far.
"It's a chance to get him some extra minutes and see what he can do," Capuano said of Bouchard, who has no points and only one shot on goal in four games. "He's got to give us more if he wants to play."
Bouchard, who spent 10 seasons with the Wild, said the adjustment to a new team has been tougher than he expected.
"It's still early in the season and I guess it's taking me some time to get settled," he said. "But at the same time, I know I can play better."