Isles look to fine-tune special teams units
by Christian Arnold/Correspondent
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – After Wednesday night’s scrimmage against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, it was apparent the New York Islanders had some work to do on special teams.
On Thursday, the Isles spent part of their practice doing just that.
“We focused on it early on as far as our video meetings, and our power play and PK meetings,” head coach Jack Capuano explained. “But today was the first day that we really got involved on the ice. Same structure tomorrow and it’s an ongoing process… It’s a condensed week. I don’t think there is a blueprint for it, so we’ve done the best we can to fit everything that we’ve had to do without losing any conditioning.”
The Islanders surrendered three power-play goals Wednesday night against their AHL farm team and it was quite clear that special teams was an area that the team would need to work on.
“It was a work in progress on the penalty kill for sure.” Capuano later added. “We gave up three power-play goals and it was the little things. It was the shift times, not getting the puck 200 feet, so something that we addressed last night, we addressed it this morning, and we’ll continue to address. It’s a big part of the game early on.”
During last season the Islanders penalty kill was not great. They finished the year with a percentage of 80.5, which placed them 23rd in the NHL in the category. It was a decline from where they finished the 2010-11 season. They also saw their shorthanded goals drop as well. They led the league in the shorthanded goals with 15 in 2010-11 but only scored four all of last year.
The Islanders power play unit fared a bit better last season. They finished the year ranked eighth in power-play percentage, which was a nine-spot jump from the previous season.
“We hadn’t worked on the power play or penalty kill yet,” Kyle Okposo explained regarding the rustiness of the special teams unit. “So it was all new stuff and it definitely showed in the game.”
During Thursday’s practice, the Islanders spent a portion of it working with the team’s two power play units. The first consisted of Matt Moulson, John Tavares and Brad Boyes, with Frans Nielsen and Mark Streit at the point.
The second unit was David Ullstrom, Michael Grabner and Okposo, with Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald at the point.
“Today was just getting more of a feel, talk about a few things, and just practice it,” Boyes said. “That’s kind of been the biggest thing; we’ve got a few things written down on paper and on the board and stuff and going over X’s and O’s, but today was just about going through the drills and getting used to it.”
Okposo said it was good working with Ullstrom and Grabner on the power play, and added that they had “some good chemistry out there.”
The Islanders have one more practice to work on special teams before the season opener on Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
- The Isles claimed forward Keith Aucoin off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday.
- They also returned both defenseman Griffin Reinhart and forward Ryan Strome to their respective junior teams.
- Defenseman Jon Landry was loaned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.