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Isles struggling on the power play amid injuries and COVID-19 roster issues

Richard Panik of the New York Islanders skates

Richard Panik of the New York Islanders skates during the third period against the Calgary Flames at UBS Arena on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Through three straight trips to the playoffs and back-to-back berths in the NHL semifinals under coach Barry Trotz, the power play has never been the strength of the Islanders’ game.

But never has the man advantage actively hurt the Islanders as much as it is now.

The last-place Islanders (5-8-2), mired in a six-game losing streak with a roster depleted both by injury and COVID-19, have scored five power-play goals in their 15 games and allowed three shorthanded goals in their last eight games.

The latest came in Sunday night’s 3-0 loss to the Maple Leafs at UBS Arena, where the pomp of the opening weekend at the $1.1 billion facility did not match the on-ice product despite a solid effort in Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Flames in the building’s long-awaited debut.

Mitch Marner’s shorthanded goal with the Islanders skating four-on-three at 3:31 of the first period proved the winner.

The Islanders did not practice Monday and had Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows and defensemen Adam Pelech and Andy Greene in COVID-19 protocol for Sunday’s game. Top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) is out for four to six weeks and second-line center Brock Nelson exited Sunday’s game after the first period with a lower-body issue.

The Islanders went 0-for-3 on the power play against the Leafs with three total shots.

They did go 1-for-6 with nine shots against the Flames as Nelson, with the first of his two goals, cut the deficit to 2-1 on the man advantage at 19:37 of the first period.

The Islanders are 5-for-41 (12.2%) and ranked 30th in the 32-team NHL.

"Decisions," Trotz said after Sunday’s loss. "Our power play was really good [Saturday] night. Today, not so much. A lot of time it’s execution and effort, and if one of those two things are failing, then you get bad results. The execution starts with whoever makes the first puck decision and it goes from there."

The Islanders’ power-play units, like their lineup, had a taped-together feel to it. Defenseman Robin Salo, recalled from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport with Pulock injured, has played a prominent role on the power play in his first two NHL games. Richard Panik, also called up from Bridgeport as COVID-19 has sapped the Islanders’ forward depth, saw regular power-play time this weekend as well.

On Saturday, Trotz had Salo on a unit with Bellows, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise, and defenseman Sebastian Aho worked with Panik, Oliver Wahlstrom, Kyle Palmieri and Nelson. Trotz had to ad-lib Sunday with Bellows, and then Nelson, unavailable.

Trotz said what he’s seeing on the ice is not as it’s designed.

"Right now, we’re a little limited," he said. "But the decisions that are being made are not exactly the decisions that are put out to the players. We give them a little bit of a game plan, what we think is available to them. They’ve got to execute it and see if it works."

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