BOSTON — It was penalty kill day for the Islanders on Friday. Doug Weight and his coaching staff devoted 45 minutes to a video and chat session with the majority of his players at TD Garden, then the group took the ice and worked exclusively on the PK for an hour.
That sounds like a lot for the first practice day in a week, but the Islanders’ penalty kill is in need of some repair. Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins featured two more power-play goals in two attempts, marking the fourth straight game the Islanders have allowed two power-play goals.
They are down to 30th in the league at 73.3 percent efficiency.
“We talked about everything for the last 24 hours. I’m not going to repeat it, because I’m tired,” said Weight, who was already huddling with his coaches just minutes after Thursday’s loss in Pittsburgh. “It’s life, it’s confidence. You need some freshness, you need to focus on it, not ignore it.”
The failures of the PK in the last week were magnified with Casey Cizikas missing four straight games, as Cizikas is the leading forward in shorthanded ice time and normally takes the opening draw of every opposing power play.
But the slide really started when Nikolay Kulemin was lost for the rest of the regular season on Nov. 7 to a shoulder injury. Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares-Kulemin had been the PK forward pairs since January and had done a solid job to that point, operating at 82 percent (41-for-50).
Since Kulemin went down, the Isles are killing off just 62.5 percent (25-for-40) of opposing power plays.
“There’s different personnel and a lot of our penalty kill success is predicated on playing with a certain guy and really getting used to his movements,” Clutterbuck said. “Casey’s been hurt, I got sick, Kulie’s hurt — that leads to some sort of breakdowns. And you add bad luck to that, you get what we’ve got right now. It’s up to us to find the chemistry and today was more an exercise in repetition to find that comfort zone we need.”
Weight kept his forward pairs together in Friday’s practice, with Cizikas-Clutterbuck, Tavares-Andrew Ladd and Josh Bailey-Anthony Beauvillier doing the work. Tavares and Ladd were on for both Penguins goals on Thursday.
“You can only use so many guys,” Weight said. “I think we have good personnel. We just went over some things, had a skate and that’s it.”
Notes & quotes: Johnny Boychuk did not practice and Weight said it was 50-50 that Boychuk, who sat out Thursday’s game, would play Saturday here against the Bruins. Weight also said a couple other players were “either under the weather or banged up.” Clutterbuck needed about a dozen stitches to close a skate cut on his hand that caused him to miss part of Thursday’s second period, but he practiced fully on Friday.