FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Islanders continue to search within as they try to fix a problem start to the season that seems as if it won’t be ending anytime soon.
They practiced at the BB&T Center on Friday ahead of their game there Saturday night against the Panthers, working primarily on special teams. The Isles’ penalty kill betrayed them yet again in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the Lightning in Tampa, giving up two goals in six opportunities.
The Islanders entered league play on Friday ranked 27th on the power play at 10.5 percent and tied for 26th on the penalty kill at 75.9 percent. They have scored only four power-play goals all season and have allowed 12 in the last eight games. On Thursday night, when the Islanders had only one power play, it was the eighth time in 14 games this season that they have given their opponent more power plays than they’ve drawn.
Those bad numbers obscure the positives the Islanders have been trying to take out of many of their recent games: At even strength, they haven’t been bad.
“We were better five-on-five than we’ve been,” John Tavares said after Thursday night’s loss, “but that’s not much of a consolation.”
The penalty kill is the most perplexing flaw in the Islanders’ stumbling 5-7-2 start. The unit was elite during the 2015-16 season and ranked fourth in the league at 84.5 percent efficiency. It was elite through the first six games of this season, killing off 21 of 22 opportunities. But it’s been a mess since, with early parades to the penalty box keeping Tavares and the other offense-minded Islanders off the ice while the penalty-killers try to keep things moving.
The Islanders are tied for third most in the league at 54 times short, compared to fourth fewest last season at 232 man advantages given.
“You look back at what we’ve achieved there in the past and it was pretty darn good,” Jack Capuano said. “We’ve just got to work as a unit of five . . . It seems to be a little bit of everything.”