To hear Barry Trotz, Nick Leddy is a big piece of the puzzle. A very significant piece, and one that the coach believes makes the Islanders a better squad.
Leddy did not play in the 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night because of an ongoing lower-body injury that has impacted his season. He participated in the full practice Friday at Northwell Health Ice Center, and Trotz later said he doesn’t see any reason why the defenseman won’t be back for Saturday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center.
If that’s the case, Trotz pointed out that the Islanders would be getting back a “top player for us” who allows the team to have lefthanded and righthanded shooters on each defense pairing. Leddy has two goals and seven assists in 18 games this season.
Trotz spent a good deal of time dissecting the breakdowns in the team’s structure.
“You have your layers of insulation so [if] one guy messes up or one guy can’t execute a play, you’re at least in a position to defend or deflect, if you will,” he said. “We’ve been drifting off some of those positional things. It’s a matter of four or five feet, but those four or five feet makes you on the right side of the puck or the wrong side of the puck. And we’ve sort of been cheating on the wrong side of the puck.”
The results from the California trip, which included an overtime loss to San Jose and regulation losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles, back up the coach. The Islanders were outscored 9-2 and went 0-for-11 on the power play.
All of which caused changes to the forward corps. Brock Nelson centered the top line with Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier, followed by a second line of Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey. The fourth line stayed intact, but a new third line of Derick Brassard, Otto Koivula and Leo Komarov was constructed.
“Everybody’s capable of playing with anybody up and down the lineup. We’ve got the guys and the character to do it,” said Nelson, who added that it’s “huge to have guys you can kind of move around. Hopefully something kind of jump-starts the offense to get back to scoring.
Everybody in here obviously has a lot of skill and they can play the game. We’re here for a reason. So it’s just up to us.”
Leddy played in the losses to the Sharks and Ducks, going minus-2 with four shots on goal in 39:30 spanning the two games.
Kuhnhackl practices. Tom Kuhnhackl participated in the full team practice Friday, but Trotz said he was “just joining the team.” Kuhnhackl doesn’t appear to be ready to play Saturday. Kuhnhackl had not practiced with the team since injuring his leg against Ottawa on Oct. 25.