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A New Approach

The Islanders returned to practice Wednesday with a fresh attitude for the upcoming weekend's games

Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 4:36 PM ET / News
By Travis Betts
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A New Approach
Thomas Vanek skated alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo during his Islanders debut Tuesday (Photo: Getty Images).

Following a tough loss Tuesday to the rival Rangers, the New York Islanders attacked Wednesday’s practice with a loosened approach.

The team took part in special teams drills and a couple of quirky games that lightened the mood for the players and coaches.

“We talked about it today – new attitude, new challenge,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We’ve got to stay positive. Special teams were a huge factor in last night’s game. But at the same time, we had some things we needed to work on today to move forward.”

Most goals during Wednesday’s practice were celebrated. Defenseman Travis Hamonic believes the atmosphere and positive attitude should help to clear the slate for the Islanders, who face Ottawa on the road Friday and Boston at home Saturday.

"Sometimes you just have to change things up a little bit and have some fun with it,” Hamonic said. “Coming to the rink and trying to put yesterday behind us and looking forward to the next game in a positive manner is a lot better than coming and being down. That's not going to do us any good. Last night’s game is over. It’s time to move forward and I think that's what we did in practice.”

The Islanders power play ranked first in the NHL at 27.8-percent, but was unable to convert Tuesday against the Rangers on three opportunities. Similarly, the penalty kill, which was ranked sixth in the league, was victimized twice on four chances. Hamonic says that with the Islanders’ continued emphasis on special teams play, the power play and penalty kill will be back on point soon.

“I don't think there's been a team that's killed every penalty in a season or a team that's scored on every power play,” Hamonic said. “Special teams have been a strength and hopefully we get back to where we feel they should be. We have the personnel in here to be the top of the league in both categories. We hit the reset button a little bit today and got back at it."
 

Vanek adjusting

Captain John Tavares, who is centering the top line with right wing Kyle Okposo and newcomer Thomas Vanek, said the top trio needs to improve in the chemistry department. Vanek played with Tavares and Okposo at even strength and on the top power play unit, something Tavares said will get better with each practice.

“I think we’ve just got to try to go play,” Tavares said. “At times we tried to be a little too cute or we should have simplified things. When we did that we started to get more pucks to the net. We’ll get used to each other and play on our instincts with confidence and feed off each other. When you’re not trying to do too much, it leads to good success, especially with the talent we have in here. There’s a lot of room to grow.”

Capuano added that once the Tavares-Vanek-Okposo line adjusts to their new dynamic with reps in practice and games, they should be more effective in the long run.

“They might have been trying to look for him a little too much,” Capuano said. “It’s going to be a process. But we’ve got to get back to basics. [Vanek] is a character guy who really fits in the room well. In his first game, obviously there was a lot of emotion. But I thought he had some good chances. He’ll continue to play with Johnny on that power play and 5-on-5 and I’m sure they’re going to get going here.”

The Islanders will practice again Thursday before flying to Ottawa for their first matchup of the season against the Senators on Friday, Nov. 1.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 46 17 19 -4 36
K. Okposo 47 12 24 -9 36
B. Nelson 49 20 11 1 31
F. Nielsen 49 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 49 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 48 8 15 5 23
A. Lee 49 7 14 1 21
N. Leddy 49 3 16 -12 19
R. Strome 38 5 13 -6 18
N. Kulemin 49 5 9 6 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 10 4 .921 2.18
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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