BUFFALO - Despite one of the best 34-game starts in franchise history, the Islanders face the Sabres here Saturday night with a few things to work on.
The biggest area in need of improvement, according to Jack Capuano, is getting more of his players involved in the offense. The Islanders (23-11-0) have 105 goals (99 scored and six awarded for shootout wins), which is fourth-best in the Eastern Conference, but a few spots of concern have cropped up in the last 10 games.
Perhaps the biggest is getting offense from the team's defensemen. The Islanders got 12 goals from their defensemen in the first 24 games but only two in the past 10 games. Nick Leddy has five goals, most among the defensemen, but none in the past 15 games.
"We want our guys to be a defense-first team, but at the same time, we need some guys to generate more," Capuano said. "Some guys need to get it going, and they know who they are."
With regular partner Johnny Boychuk out for nine games, Leddy had been playing heavier minutes during the past month. Leddy also took over the point on the top power-play unit, a spot he kept when Boychuk returned three games ago.
But the Islanders' power play enters the Buffalo game on a 1-for-17 skid, which likely means Leddy won't be manning the point when the Isles get their first power-play chance.
He might not be the only top-unit member shuffled around. Capuano declined to discuss specific players, but Frans Nielsen has only one point in the past seven games despite regular power-play work.
"Against Montreal [on Tuesday], we had a couple chances with the power play, and not only didn't we generate anything, it actually seemed to hurt us," Capuano said. "So we may see some different guys there tomorrow."
John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have had stronger performances of late, with Okposo scoring three goals in the past six games and Tavares contributing six points in the past eight. But rather than having Tavares and Okposo dominate, the Isles have been a better team with balanced offense this season.
Notes & quotes: Capuano said he'd know more about Jaroslav Halak once the team reconvened for its game-day flight to Buffalo Saturday morning. The goaltender did not dress for Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Canadiens. Kevin Poulin, who was the emergency backup for Chad Johnson on Tuesday, played Friday night for AHL Bridgeport, which could indicate that Halak will play Saturday night.