LOS ANGELES — There is, coach Barry Trotz said, no practice time left for the Islanders in this condensed schedule.
So getting the four-line balance they’ve sought virtually all season in the first two games of this five-game road trip was certainly a welcome sign. Showcasing some positive performances in advance of the March 21 NHL trade deadline can’t hurt, either.
The Islanders (19-20-8), 18 points out of a playoff spot, open back-to-back games in the Los Angeles area on Saturday night against the Kings at Crypto.com Arena before facing the Ducks on Sunday.
“We’ve been working on a couple of concepts,” Trotz said. “We felt that it could help us and I thought we stuck with the principles a little better today.”
Trotz declined to further elaborate on the “concepts.”
But Trotz did move Zach Parise to top-line center Mathew Barzal’s left wing to start the trip and Parise has responded with three goals in the two games. Second-line center Brock Nelson extended his goal streak to four games on Thursday and fourth-line center Casey Cizikas contributed a goal on Tuesday.
Trotz also re-inserted Oliver Wahlstrom on third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s right wing after the sharpshooter missed two games with an upper-body injury. Kieffer Bellows is getting regular playing time on Nelson’s line while Josh Bailey was a healthy scratch on Thursday for the first time since Nov. 8, 2015.
In general, the Islanders have passed better, allowing them to navigate through all three zones quicker.
It’s also helping that the Islanders have drastically reduced their turnovers. They were credited with 22 giveaways in a dismal, 3-2, loss to the Canadiens at UBS Arena this past Sunday. They had just five against the expansion Kraken and were down to three in Thursday’s shootout loss.
But, other than the actual games, the Islanders are doing most of their work now in video sessions or the quick morning skates. Friday was an off day as the Islanders are playing three games in four nights.
In all, the Islanders will play their final 35 games in just 63 days. Only three times in that stretch do they have more than one day between games.
“There is no practice time left,” Trotz said. “You just sort of play and recover, play and recover, play and recover. Hopefully, we, as a group, can get energized for each game. Play and make adjustments through film and talking through it on the bench. It’s a lot of games. It is nicer to get into some kind of rhythm. There’s a lot of hockey to be played.”
But there will almost certainly be subtractions from the group before the trade deadline. Impending unrestricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck, Parise and possibly defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene should draw attention. There could also be a market for goalie Semyon Varlamov and, perhaps, Bailey.