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Western Swing

The Islanders start a five-game Western road trip in St. Louis on Thursday.

Wednesday, 12.04.2013 / 7:03 PM / News
By Cory Wright
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Western Swing
The Islanders start a five-game Western road trip in St. Louis on Thursday.
Andrew MacDonald holds up Kings forward Matt Frattin on Nov. 14.

Coming off of two gritty, well-played, but ultimately disappointing overtime losses in their last two games, the Islanders begin a five-game Western road trip Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues.

The gateway to the West leads the Islanders to California, where they’ll play the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, before wrapping up the trip in Phoenix against the Coyotes. All five teams rank in the NHL’s top 10, potentially making this the toughest trip of the season, a prospect not lost on head coach Jack Capuano.

“We know what teams we are playing,” he said. “They are big, strong teams that play fast. (We have to take it) one period at a time, one shift at a time. It comes down to one goal games and we have to learn how to win those games. We have to defend well against these big teams.”

Having already played LA and Phoenix, the Islanders have an idea of what to expect from their Western opponents. The games will be physical (LA leads the league with 928 hits and Phoenix, 751, is fifth), but the Islanders did beat the Coyotes 6-1 on Oct. 8 and were in control of a large part of their 3-2 loss to the Kings.

“We played really well against LA when they came (to Long Island),” Andrew MacDonald said. “We should have won that game being up heading into the third.”

Like the loss to the Kings, there were positives to take out of the Islanders’ recent OT losses. The team played well 5-on-5, won over half their faceoffs and played physical. Still, puck-luck eludes the Isles, as does consistent special teams.

“It’s hard to take solace in those things, but your team needs confidence when it’s in a rut like this,” MacDonald said. “You have to realize you’re a good team and that you can get out of it. We know this is a big road trip for us and we’ll be focused and ready to go.”

The Islanders need strong starts on the upcoming trip to set the tone on the ice and take the energy out of some hostile buildings. They had a hot start against the Penguins Tuesday night, scoring twice in the first period, but that intensity out of the gate was largely fuelled by the animosity between the teams. Manufacturing that fire against an unfamiliar opponent is a lot tougher, but would go a long way against teams the Islanders haven’t seen in two seasons.

“That’s part of the game plan,” Capuano said. “Every time you step on the ice you have to engage and raise your battle level. We know it’s going to be a physical game and we have to respond to that.”

To their credit, the Islanders have more hits this season than St. Louis and San Jose, two teams with a lot of size. Matt Martin leads the league with 137 bodychecks and Cal Clutterbuck is in the top-20. As a team, the Isles kept pace in their games with the Kings and Penguins, but Capuano wants to see more intensity out of everyone to help turn things around.

“We need 10 or 20 percent more out of each guy,” he said. “We need that secondary scoring, but it starts with being physical, getting in on pucks and maintaining puck possession.”

The Islanders came within one goal of busting their slump on Saturday and Tuesday, so the team is itching to step up and take another shot.

“We’ve played a couple of good games where we came up short in OT and it’s frustrating,” Martin said. “These things are hard to get out of and we just have to be ready to play against St. Louis. We need to turn this thing around quickly and tomorrow would be a good start.”




1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
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3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
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11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43


J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
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