Tuesday’s marathon practice session started with assistant coach Jim Hiller directing Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews and Josh Bailey, members of one of the Islanders’ power-play units, on passing and quick shots and ended more than 90 minutes later with extensive man-advantage drills.
“Right now, it seems like the only time we’re working on it is in practice,” center Brock Nelson said
The Islanders (5-3-0), with Hiller in his first season coaching the power play, began the day ranked third in the NHL on the power play at 4-for-12 (33.3 percent). Granted, it’s a small sample size but a vast improvement over last season when they ranked 29th at 33-for-227 (14.5 percent) under Scott Gomez’s direction.
The problem is the Islanders, who have won four straight heading into Thursday night’s game against the Coyotes at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, aren’t drawing enough penalties. They did not have a power play in Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime win at Columbus – the Blue Jackets only had one –and had just one power play apiece in each of their three previous games.
“It’s just tough to get the feel of it,” said Anthony Beauvillier, who, along with Bailey, Barzal, Toews and Nelson comprise one unit. “We’ve been moving the puck pretty good. We’re doing the best we can in practice to work on it.”
Defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock along with Anders Lee, Derick Brassard and rookie Oliver Wahlstrom worked together as the other five-on-four power-play unit.
Both Beauvillier and Nelson said one solution is for the Islanders to possess the puck more in the offensive zone and establish a cycle in order to draw penalties in the corners and in the low slot.
But the Islanders must win more faceoffs in order to possess the puck more. The Islanders rank 30th in the 31-team NHL in faceoffs at 45.9 percent. They were just 22 of 60 (37.0 percent) against the Blue Jackets.
“On the bench, we don’t have to yell at the referees sometimes as much as we do,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s No. 1. Two is just keep driving your feet, keep going to the inside and not get frustrated by it. We’ve got some pretty good refs in the NHL. Do I agree all the time? No, absolutely not. Do I think we should have more power plays? Absolutely yes.”
Notes & quotes: Center Casey Cizikas (injured reserve/lower body), who has missed five games, returned to practice, though Trotz said there is no timetable for his return to the lineup. “I feel good and I was happy to be back out there with the guys,” Cizikas said . . . Forward Tom Kuhnhackl missed a second straight practice for maintenance . . . Forward Leo Komarov (illness), who did not play on Saturday, also missed his second straight practice and Trotz listed him as day-to-day . . . Right wing Jordan Eberle (IR/lower body) remains out . . . The Ducks have agreed to a deal with defenseman Luca Sbisa, who had been practicing with the Islanders on a professional tryout offer. Sbisa had an assist in nine games for the Islanders last season.