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Carver: Time For Islanders To Mix It Up

Last Place Islanders In Need Of Change
Nino Niederreiter

Nino Niederreiter (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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By Mike Carver
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The month of November has not been kind to the Islanders in recent years.  Last year, the Islanders lost 20 out of 22 games from late October to early December.  Included in that stretch was a 1-7-3 November that sealed the fate of their season and that of former coach Scott Gordon.  The losses piled up fast and included overtime heart-breakers and complete blowouts.  As the page turns to November, it’s starting to look again like the same old Islanders.

The Islanders are now 1-5-3 since October 20th, almost a year to the day of the beginning of the end last year (10/23/10). They have lost 8 out of 9, and like last season, losses are getting ugly fast.  They were lifeless in a 3-0 home loss to Winnipeg, got embarrassed in Boston 6-2.  Last night was the cherry on top, a 4-3 overtime loss in Colorado.

The Isles had a 3-0 lead with less than a minute remaining in the 2nd period.  Yes, I’m leaving out their only win in the last 9 games, a 5-3 comeback win over the high powered Capitals last Saturday at the coliseum.  But with the way they have played since, does that game really hold significance anymore? It’s hard to make big time changes on this team to shake things up, but here’s a few that I would try before it starts looking more like last year.

Get me Nino…NOW

We got a taste of Nino Niederreiter last year for the first 9 games, and we saw flashes of why he was the Islanders top pick in the 2010 draft.  As training camp opened, he was ticketed to be on the top line alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson.  Unfortunately, a groin injury sidelined him in the last week in camp and put him out of action for a few weeks.  He went down to Bridgeport on November 1st and played in a few conditioning games and looks ready to go.

It’s time to bring Nino back now, put him on the top line with JT and Moulson and bury Blake Comeau.  I’ve seen enough, he’s not the same player as last year; it’s time to move on.  Nino is a young offensive future star.  He should be here now.  While we’re at it, bring up Micheal Haley from Bridgeport as well.  I loved his energy in the 2nd half last year.  Even though Matt Martin is doing an outstanding job throwing the body and being the enforcer, the Islanders need more of that.  To make room for Haley, I’d part ways with Jay Pandolfo.  I have praised him here continuously for his penalty killing, but the Islanders need scoring and energy now, and those are not Pandolfo’s strengths.

Break up the old and slow defensemen

It’s hard to watch Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton play together on defense.  If one of them was your 6th man you could carry them, but having these two guys together on the ice at the same time is killing the Islanders.  Mottau is a turnover machine with the puck and Eaton can’t hold down the younger, faster, bigger forwards in the NHL.  Sadly, there are not many options here.  At least 1 of them should be scratched and instead put Milan Jurcina in the lineup every night.  There was no reason to sit Jurcina last night in Colorado; he’s light years better than both of them.  Top Islanders defense prospect Calvin de Haan isn’t NHL ready yet.  Ty Wishart played well here at the end of last year and I’m thinking would be next in line if they wanted to look to the minors.  Until a suitable trade or prospect arises, at least keep Mottau and Eaton away from each other.

End the Goaltending Mess

This has gone on too long and it’s wearing on everyone.  Evgeni Nabokov looked miserable in Boston Monday night, Al Montoya got his first start in 3 weeks Thursday in Colorado and was pelted with 51 shots but let in 2 soft goals.  The Islanders can’t seem to  score when DiPietro is in goal.  There were rumors of a Nabokov departure to Columbus during last night’s game but they turned out to be just that, rumors.  Get whatever you can for Nabokov and move on.  He never wanted to be here to begin with and he sure looked like he didn’t want to be in Boston last Monday night.

It doesn’t get any easier during the rest of the month.  The Islanders finish the road trip in Vancouver Sunday night before heading home for the Rangers, Canadians and Bruins.  The Islanders need to go a minimum 2-2 over the next week just to right the ship a little and get back on track.  If they don’t, the month of November is looking like it is going to finish off the Islanders.

3 Stars of the Week

3rd Star- Michael Grabner – Grabner looks like he is starting to get hot.  Goals now in 2 straight games and starting to find some space with a few more breakaways.  Just needs to start converting on more of those chances.

2nd Star – Matt Martin – 2 weeks in a row Martin finds himself in the 3 stars, well deserved.  Another lunch pail goal in front of the net this week and he continues to bring the energy.  Give him some more ice time! To all the fans who were worried about Martin being able to protect Tavares, he answered those questions Thursday in Colorado.

1st star – The Newly formed Nielsen/Parenteau/Rolston line – Coach Capuano finally made some line changes last Saturday against Washington and these guys made the most of it.  They combined for 4 goals since forming and I’m for any line that makes it look like Rolston is actually on the ice.