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Islanders stand pat on trade front and work on power play

Thomas Vanek skates in warmups before his first

Thomas Vanek skates in warmups before his first game with the Islanders against the Rangers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 29, 2013. Credit: Getty Images

The status was quo around the Islanders Friday, when they held their final practice before their last game before the Olympic break.

Thomas Vanek still was skating on a forward line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.

Defenseman Travis Hamonic still was not officially back from an 11-game absence while recovering from a concussion. (Coach Jack Capuano hinted strongly that Hamonic, who worked through a full practice, could return for Saturday night's home game against Colorado. Hamonic was not allowed to speak to reporters.)

And the power play -- 0-for-30 in the last seven games (1-5-1) -- still was a vexation.

All around the league, rosters were frozen at 3 p.m., ensuring no change in the existing state of trading affairs until Feb. 23, while rumors continued to fly about whether the Islanders will deal Vanek or defenseman Andrew MacDonald, another free-agent-to-be.

Back to the uneventful present, then:

Capuano this week addressed the fact that rookie Brock Nelson has been used on various lines and at all three forward positions. "He's gotten much better," Capuano said. "Not that we like to keep moving guys around, but we have to find some offense here as we move forward. He's a big, strong kid, and his development is on the right path, and he seems to have found a home in the middle right now."

Naturally, there has been attention to the power play in workouts, though Tavares acknowledged that "the only difficult thing" about simulating man-advantage play in practice is a restriction on all-out shooting, "because you don't want to hit anybody [with the puck], so that's one thing you won't see as much in practice. You don't want to hurt anybody."

Not that the Islanders haven't spent a great deal of time on it anyway, working on "certain sets," Tavares said, "whether it's the umbrella -- when you've got a guy on top at the blue line and two guys on the wings -- or overload, with four guys on one side of the ice, and a lot of teams like the spread now, when you've got four guys at all four corners of the zone and one guy in the middle."

Of course, the split-second instinct required for a successful power play cannot necessarily be practiced. Said Capuano, "For me, it's the entries. I think we've done a real good job with our entries into the zone.

"But if you're scouting our team, once we're in the zone, we're trying to make too many seam passes, we're trying to be too cute.

"So how do you practice? Get pucks to the net. Simplify it. Find that two-on-one and don't turn down a shot."


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