Nashville Predators left wing Sergei Kostitsyn (74), and New York...

Nashville Predators left wing Sergei Kostitsyn (74), and New York Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson (30) watch the puck bounce out of the net after Kostitsyn scored in the first period. (Dec. 13, 2010) Credit: AP

Surely matters can't get worse for the Islanders. Returning from Monday's 5-0 loss in Nashville, they were forced by bad weather to hopscotch by jet and bus through Newsburgh, N.Y., and JFK Airport on their way back to their starting point in Farmingdale for a 7 a.m. arrival Tuesday.

And when, later in the day, they made a holiday-season tour of Long Island hospitals with the intent of spreading the kind of good cheer they could use themselves, some had to endure a gripe session referencing their 20 losses in the last 21 games.

"We were visiting sick kids and giving them gifts," defenseman James Wisniewski said, "and one of the nurses there was really pretty rude to me, Doug Weight and Andy MacDonald. She's a season-ticket holder and saying, 'Nobody wants to go to your games; you've been giving tickets away for free.'

"It was kind of like, with that first comment, it's, 'Whoa.' And then the second and third, it's to the point where we kind of had to walk away."

Just one more slash in this death by a thousand cuts. Beyond the decimating injuries, the coaching change, the 5-18-5 record, there now are the public critics. Going into tonight's home game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Islanders hardly need to be reminded that they are suffering through one of the worst slumps in NHL history.

Tuesday's incident was "eye-opening," Wisniewski said. "I guess maybe [fans] are as frustrated as we are for not winning. I think, personally, with the money that atheltes make these days, the fans take it more personally. They look at it like you should be the best all the time and they don't realize that, you know, somebody like me, you can't take it home.

"I'm a newlywed and I don't want to take my work home with me, because obviously that's not fair. But it's our living, too. And when you've lost 20 of 21 games, or whatever it has been, you're not in the best mood when you get home."

What can be done? "Score goals," coach Jack Capuano said. "We gotta put the light on."

Notes & quotes: Defenseman Mike Mottau, who suffered an eye injury Nov. 21, has been cleared for "physical activity" but without a target date to resume skating. Defenseman Milan Jurcina (hamstring) practiced and "hopefully will be ready to go in a couple of days," Capuano said.

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