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Doug Weight tries to upgrade Islanders’ grit level

Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on during practice

Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on during practice at Northwell Health Ice Center on Sept. 16, 2017. Credit: Anna Sergeeva

NASHVILLE — The Islanders got to work on Friday, a two-location day of meetings, video and practice.

They met at Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators, on Friday morning to hash out and watch some parts of Thursday night’s 6-4 loss to the Wild.

Then, in full pads while carrying their sticks and skates, the Isles boarded a bus for Centennial Sportsplex, the Predators’ low-key practice facility on the west side of the city. Not exactly hard hats and lunch pails while headed to the steel mill, but that’s the mentality Doug Weight wants his players, especially those comprising the Islanders’ league-worst power play, to have as they prepare to face Nashville on Saturday.

“We need to get desperate, just grittier and work,” Weight said after practice. “You don’t have to believe it, but I don’t care. You’ve got to outwork the PK in this day and age, and we’ve been a little lax. We ease into it. We have to skate into areas to get open, we have to pass the puck like a man. Every inch you get creates more room for guys.”

The power play had been unproductive the first nine games. On Thursday it crossed over into ineptitude, going 0-for-5 while allowing two back-breaking shorthanded goals to the Wild. That dropped the season totals to 2-for-33 (6.1 percent) with five shorthanded goals allowed.

Weight and his coaching staff adjusted the two power-play groups on Friday. Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey replaced Jordan Eberle and Johnny Boychuk on the top unit. Ryan Pulock supplanted Adam Pelech as the lone defenseman on the second unit and Anthony Beauvillier got his first taste of power-play practice time.

Pulock, who’s been a healthy scratch the last two games, could provide a solution with his big slap shot. But the main issue in Weight’s mind is simply not seeing enough from the talented players he’s been using with the man advantage.

“Always good to have a fresh start, a reboot,” said Weight, who added that he planned to have Pulock back in as part of a six-man defense group, which means one regular defenseman will be taking a seat on Saturday. “We’re not changing everything crazily, but we’ve got to get our work ethic up, our routes, get back to our keys we have from the last three, four years.”

Notes & quotes: Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal on Saturday, his sixth start in the team’s 11 games. Halak has allowed three goals in each of his first five starts . . . Weight jumbled his forward lines for Friday’s practice, putting Bailey with Anders Lee and John Tavares, Eberle and Brock Nelson with Barzal, Casey Cizikas between Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, and Beauvillier with Nikolay Kulemin and Cal Clutterbuck. Weight mused that he might have made the changes “just for practice” but could start Saturday’s game that way.

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