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Islanders' penalty-killing unit makes big improvement

Richard Park has been part of an Islanders

Richard Park has been part of an Islanders penalty kill that has not allowed a power play in its last 13 chances against. (Feb. 14, 2010) Photo Credit: Joe Rogate

ANAHEIM, Calif. - There is no way to sugarcoat how much the Islanders' penalty-killing unit has struggled this season.

Emerging from the Olympic break, the team's PK was scraping the bottom of the league in efficiency and putting a goal-starved squad at a severe disadvantage almost every night.

Something had to be done.

"You know that old cliche, 'If it's not broken, don't fix it?' " veteran Richard Park asked. "It was broken."

Consequently, Scott Gordon and the rest of the coaching staff decided change was needed. After attempting to tweak the unit three times previously this season, a plan was devised.

Responsibilities were defined, the scheme was tailored to the team's personnel and several video sessions were digested.

Since making the requisite adjustments after the Islanders' 6-3 loss to Atlanta March 4, the team has seen results almost immediately. Heading into Friday night's game against the Ducks, the team had killed 21 of 25 penalties in the past six games, including three straight games (13-for-13) without surrendering a power-play goal.

The team has scored two shorthanded goals in that span as well.

"It wouldn't have taken much to get positive results, because we were so bad," Gordon joked.

It might be premature to deem the change a cure-all, but there is a definite correlation between improved special teams and the team's overall success.

"It gives you the confidence. When the game is 3-2 and the other team goes on the power play, we know if we do our job, we can kill it off," defenseman Mark Streit said. "It's a big confidence-booster and we've been battling all season to win games like that."

The aim of the revamped penalty kill is to scale back the amount of pressure applied to opponents on the outside and increase the team's presence in the front of the net.

"Defensemen are protecting the net a lot more," Streit said. "If there is a shot, we have more bodies to get pucks out and box people out. We're pretty much giving up the outside and trying to clog the dangerous ice."

The absence of serious size and physicality among the penalty-killers also played a role in the adjustments.

"We changed to allow ourselves to protect the front of the net with more consistency," Gordon said. "We don't have a lot of big guys, we don't have a lot of imposing guys. It seemed like every mistake was in the back of our net. Now we've given ourselves the opportunity to compete with the players we have and they've done a good job."

Said Park: "It's not miracle work, but it needed adjusting and the coaching staff did a great job at finding a solution."

Notes & quotes: Kyle Okposo played Friday night after missing Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury.


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