The Islanders know they must play desperate hockey over the final four games to qualify for the playoffs. And they know they must keep searching for a way to make their power play more productive.
So it was no surprise coach Lane Lambert constructed two new power-play units for Tuesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow, with their next game not until Thursday night against the Lightning at UBS Arena.
“You can’t just keep beating a dead horse,” Bo Horvat told Newsday. “If it’s not working, then you’ve got to change something up. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen now, especially when you have practice time and being able to get used to your new units.”
Lambert kept his most productive line — Brock Nelson with Kyle Palmieri and Pierre Engvall — together on one unit quarterbacked by Noah Dobson and with Zach Parise as the net-front presence. Defensemen Samuel Bolduc and Sebastian Aho rotated quarterbacking the other unit, with Horvat along the right wall, defenseman Ryan Pulock on the left wall, Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the middle and Anders Lee at the net.
The Islanders are 5-for-46 (10.9%) on the power play since Mathew Barzal appeared to suffer a knee injury on Feb. 18. The Islanders were 6-for-18 (33.3%) in the first six games after Horvat, who has played mainly in the middle on the power play, was acquired from the Canucks with Barzal healthy.
“Power plays are generated to move around,” Lambert said. “Guys who play on the power play have to use their instincts as well. It’s not just about, ‘I go to this spot, you go to this spot.’ ”
The Islanders went a combined 0-for-5 with only six shots in Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Lightning and Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to the Hurricanes, both on the road.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after Sunday’s match, “[The Islanders] are playing for their lives and I thought we looked like the team that was maybe a little more desperate.”
Brind’Amour was clearly praising his team’s effort. That’s exactly how the Islanders interpreted the comment.
“I don’t think he’s really that type of guy,” Lee said. “We have to find a way to play desperate hockey. If you watch that game, our guys were out there working. After a loss, you always think you can find a different level and that’s all we have to do with four games remaining.”
“I definitely don’t think he’s taking a shot at us,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “Both teams are desperate.”
Added Lambert, “I thought we battled. I thought we competed. You guys asked me before the game what I thought of Rod Brind’Amour and I said I respect his opinion, he’s an honest guy. He was being honest with his opinion. There were things about the game I didn’t like and we’re addressing them.”
Notes & quotes: Barzal skated on his own before practice after resuming skating this weekend . . . Defenseman Alexander Romanov (upper body) did not practice after missing Sunday’s game.