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Islanders penalty kill excels; time for power play to step up

Evgeni Nabokov of the Islanders makes a save

Evgeni Nabokov of the Islanders makes a save against the Capitals during the first period at the Verizon Center on Feb. 4, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Patrick Smith

The story of Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Capitals in Washington was the Islanders' penalty kill, which went 6-for-6 for the first time this season and moved out of the NHL cellar for the first time in months. The Isles' penalty killers are 14-for-14 over the last five games.

The secondary story for the Islanders was their power play, which features some pretty talented players but went 0-for-5 on Tuesday and is an 0-for-25 skid the last six games, five of which the Islanders lost (0-4-1).

But first, the positives: Evgeni Nabokov was sharp behind the penalty killers on Tuesday and, faced with Alex Ovechkin and a Caps power play that decimated the Islanders back on Nov. 5 -- that 4-for-6 night for the Caps started the Isles' slide to the bottom of the penalty kill rankings -- the Islanders were aggressive in trying to cut off Ovechkin's shooting lanes as well as at their own blue line, where forwards like Casey Cizikas and Michael Grabner disrupted the Caps' speed.

"I thought we were good on faceoffs, too," coach Jack Capuano said. "We did what we wanted to, which was get the puck 200 feet when we could, quick changes and when they got chances, Nabby was there."

Fact is, the Islanders have been quite good on the PK for several weeks -- 52 for the last 59 (88.1 percent) in the last 22 games after successfully killing off only 83 of 115 (72.1 percent) advantages in the first 36 games.

As for the power play, which gets a chance to stop its slide against a Flames team Thursday night at the Coliseum that is in the bottom third on the penalty kill, Lubomir Visnovsky's return was supposed to ignite the top unit. That hasn't happened.

"We certainly had enough chances," said Kyle Okposo, who scored the closest thing to an Islanders' power-play goal the last two weeks when he stuffed in a rebound six seconds after a power play expired against the Rangers on Friday. "We're still getting looks, we just have to put one home."

Notes & quotes: D Travis Hamonic (concussion) practiced fully Wednesday, his first full contact workout since early last week. He may be in line to return for Saturday's game against the Avalanche, the final game before the Olympic break.

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