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New York Islanders

Islanders Defense Needs Spark After Back-to-Back Losses



New York Islanders

SUNRISE, FL — New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz talked about trying to find a spark for the team ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the Florida Panthers. He put Leo Komarov back into the lineup in place of Ross Johnston.

However, where the Islanders could really use that spark would be on the blue line to help correct some of the defensive errors that have cost New York in their first two games of the year.

On Saturday, it was Noah Dobson’s inability to clear the front of the net that led to Florida’s first goal in what would become a 5-1 loss for the Islanders. Zdeno Chara was on the ice for all but one of Florida’s five goals and finished the night a minus-4.

All in all, the Islanders defense has left something to be desired through the first two games of the year and it has cost them twice to start the season

“I think the main thing is we just need to be quicker to close in the D zone,” Adam Pelech said. “Kill plays right away, get them stopped and not give them so much time and space to create because they’re two highly skilled teams. If you give them time and space they’re going to make plays and get chances. It starts with being quick and fast on guys and killing the play right away.

“That’s what we need to correct.”

Rapid Reaction: Islanders Mauled by Panthers in Second Consecutive Loss

The Islanders’ uncharacteristic play is what has led them to the 0-2-0 start this season. Florida didn’t have that many chances through the first two periods of Saturday night’s loss, but they were able to capitalize on the blunders that New York made.

Dobson’s failure to clear the front of the net allowed Sam Bennett to score his first of three goals against the Islanders. On Bennett’s second goal, he was given the room to move in the offensive zone and the Islanders defense, along with Ilya Sorokin, were slow to react in time to prevent the goal.

New York lost track of Anthony Duclair, which allowed him to get behind Ryan Pulock and Chara for a breakaway goal in the closing moments of the second period.

“When we’re playing our game, our best hockey, it’s when we’re five-man units all over the ice,” Andy Greene said. “Whether it’s offensive zone, neutral zone or D zone. It just kind of connects everything. Everything is connected from there and when we don’t there’s a little bit of a disconnect. You see what happens there.”

The New York Islanders have four more games left on this part of their 13-game road trip to start the season. They’re headed to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

A lineup change is very much on the table for Tuesday or any of the other games coming up next week. Sebastian Aho made the roster out of training camp and could serve as the spark that Trotz had been looking for when he inserted Komarov into the lineup on Saturday.

“Yeah, we have to,” Trotz responded when asked about trying to shake things up defensively. “Seabass is a puck-moving player, defenseman. We’ll definitely consider that because we’re not doing that consistently enough for sure. He deserves a shot. He’s been an absolute pro. I don’t know if it will be next game or what, but he deserves a shot because of his attitude, his work ethic and his ability.”

It may only be two losses in an 82 game season, but the Islanders need to find the spark that has made them so good in the past. The way they’ve played through the first two games just won’t cut it much longer.