Coach Jack Capuano hopes some proper forward thinking will shake his Islanders out of their mini-slump.
The Islanders have scored only once in their last two games entering Tuesday night’s matchup against the Blue Jackets at Barclays Center.
“Our forwards need to realize they have to take the game over,” Capuano said Monday after telling his team: “Some how, some way, you’ve got to dig deep and you’ve got to find a way. You’ve got one goal in the last six periods of hockey. I don’t care what kind of defense that you play. At some point, you’re going to have to get a couple of goals to win a game.”
The players agree that they need to refine their transition game.
“The last couple of games, we just haven’t been as sharp as we usually are,” Kyle Okposo said, “especially with our exits in our d-zone.”
Said Josh Bailey, “At times when you get bogged down, you get a little tired and you don’t have as much energy going on the attack and you end up dumping it and changing.’’
The Islanders (22-15-5) took only 20 shots in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. Okposo dismissed it as “just a bad game.”
“I’m not really reading much into it,” he said. “It’s not time to panic or say all of a sudden we’re not a good team because we lost a couple of games. We have a good hockey team . . . But at the same time, we have to make sure we’re pushing forward. We’ve got a couple of weeks until the break here and we’ve got to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward and put ourselves in a good position for the stretch run.”
A win over Columbus, which has the fewest points in the league, certainly would help. The Isles beat the Blue Jackets (15-24-4) in both previous matchups this season but aren’t taking anything for granted.
“They were probably the better team when we won in their building the last time, so we’ve got to be ready,” Frans Nielsen said.
Added Capuano: “It’s a big game for us. We know what they’re going to do. I’m just concerned that we’re focused. We’re going to be dialed in and we’re going to play desperate hockey.”
Hamonic out two to three weeks. Travis Hamonic will miss the next two to three weeks with a lower-body injury, two sources informed Newsday on Monday night. Hamonic already had missed one game with the injury, suffered in Thursday night’s loss to the Capitals when he blocked a shot late in the second period.
Further injury information was not disclosed, but Hamonic will not need surgery to repair the injury. The Islanders already were growing thin on defense with Johnny Boychuk out until at least the beginning of February with a shoulder injury suffered against the Sabres on Dec. 31.
In their only game without both of their top righthanded defensemen, the Isles mustered only 20 shots on goal and were shut out 4-0 by the Flyers on Saturday. The Blue Jackets visit Barclays Center on Tuesday night, followed by the Rangers on Thursday. The Isles trail the second-place Rangers by two points in the Metropolitan Division.
Rookies Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield played in place of Boychuk and Hamonic on Saturday and likely will do so again on Tuesday night.
Hamonic’s sixth season with the Islanders began with an out-of-the-blue trade request to general manager Garth Snow because of what Hamonic termed a private family issue. Snow searched for a trade match through the first two months of the season, but Hamonic emerged as the Isles’ best defenseman and Snow’s interest in making a move waned.
It disappeared when Boychuk went down, and now it assuredly is gone. Hamonic’s injury likely will take him into the All-Star break at the end of January. With the trade deadline on Feb. 29, the Islanders might need to play catch-up in the Eastern Conference once Hamonic and Boychuk are healthy.
— ARTHUR STAPLE