COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Islanders know they need to finish this two-game road trip with a more complete effort on Thursday night against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena than they gave in Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss at Buffalo.
And a significant part of what’s made the Islanders’ overall game so strong lately — inconsistent outing against the Sabres aside — has been increased scoring production from their defensemen.
“I think it’s important that you kind of get that offensive punch from all five guys on the ice to feed that five-man unit on the attack,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who had a three-game point streak snapped on Tuesday. “It’s a lot more dangerous so it’s important for the defensemen to chip in a little bit and take that pressure off the forwards that they have to score every night.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders, who did not practice on Wednesday, hold a five-point lead on the third-place Blue Jackets, who beat the second-place Capitals, 3-0, on Tuesday night. The Islanders rallied from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 1.
Pulock had two goals and two assists in his three-game streak, scoring twice in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Avalanche at Barclays Center. The defensemen took 15 of the Islanders’ 41 shots in that game, including eight by Pulock.
The defensemen also took 12 of the team’s 34 shots in a 2-1 win over the Wild on Sunday in Brooklyn, with Pulock setting up defenseman Devon Toews’ third-period winner.
Pulock leads the Islanders’ defensemen with five goals and 21 assists, while Toews, a 24-year-old rookie, has four goals and two assists in 22 games since being recalled from Bridgeport of the AHL. The Islanders' six other defensemen have a total of 10 goals.
Toews’ arrival coincided with the start of a six-game winning streak, and the Islanders are 16-4-2 with him in the lineup.
“We haven’t done anything flashy and blow teams out,” center Brock Nelson said. “But we find ways to win games. Toews on the power play, to get that is huge for us.”
The Islanders’ defensemen had eight of the 25 shots against the Sabres, but, until the third period, the team struggled connecting on breakout passes from the defensive zone or effectively gaining the offensive zone.
That left coach Barry Trotz frustrated his team got away from its usual game of going “north” as it tried to play too “cute.”
But one loss did not leave Trotz feeling he has to make lineup changes.
“I don’t think I have to sit anybody right now,” Trotz said. “We’ve just got to get guys all pulling the right way. We’ve had a pretty good run here so let’s make sure we’re doing the right things.”