Barry Trotz switches up lines in effort to spark Islanders

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Things could look different for the Islanders against the Lightning on Monday. 

Coach Barry Trotz made some personnel changes at Saturday’s practice, switching Zach Parise onto the line with Anders Lee and Mat Barzal, while putting Josh Bailey onto the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom, per reporters in attendance. There could be more changes on the way. 

After a 4-0 loss to the Devils on Thursday dropped the Islanders to 5-4-2, last place in a stacked Metropolitan Division, Trotz wants to send a message. 

“We have some guys who aren’t pulling on the rope as much as they need to,” Trotz said. “Just trying to change things up and get their attention.” 

Drawing conclusions from 11 games is a fool’s errand, even when the factor of a five-week road trip to start the season isn’t in play. And the Islanders haven’t looked particularly bad — even against the Devils, they had more chances in 5-on-5 play. They have, however, looked overwhelmingly average. 

Barry Trotz tried to spark the struggling Islanders with line changes in practice Saturday.
Barry Trotz tried to spark the struggling Islanders with line changes in practice Saturday.
AP

That’s enough to cause some worry for a team that has made it as far as Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals each of the past two years. 

“We’re getting two-thirds of our game where we’re playing pretty well and then we’ll have a period where we’re not, or we’ll have 10 minutes,” Trotz said. “We weren’t playing systematic Islander hockey with everybody where you know what you’re getting, first minute to the 60 or 65th minute, you know what you’re getting. That hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like. And probably for the players as well. 

“I said this to the players today, ‘I can’t go around the room and say, geez, we’ve got 80 percent of the guys going right now.’ 

“We need some guys to all step up.” 

There’s some added weight to the contest Monday because it’s at Amalie Arena, where the Islanders’ season ended last June with a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals on a shorthanded goal. 

The Islanders saw their season end at Amalie Arena last year.
The Islanders saw their season end at Amalie Arena last year.
Getty Images

The Islanders have played the Lightning in 13 playoff games over the last two seasons, but failed to win either series. There are some bad memories in Amalie Arena. 

“It’s one of those things you don’t just turn the page and forget,” Josh Bailey said. “That being said, I think you try to use it as a motivator to get yourself back to a position like that. To keep you hungry.” 

In a vacuum, a road back-to-back with the Lightning and Panthers would not be the best place to ask any team to get back on track. In Tampa, though, the added familiarity — and motivation — could help. 

“There’s things you don’t want to forget,” Trotz said. “You never want to forget the great moments in your life and you don’t want to forget the tough ones, because the tough ones are the ones that get you to have more good ones. For me, I don’t want us to forget that [Game 7]. That will stick with me for a long time.” 

The Islanders can prove something — to themselves, and to their coach. 

“I think I have higher expectations for this group than I did year one [with the Islanders],” Trotz said. “And I think in our room, we should probably have those same expectations and the same pressure. I think we can be a good team but you can’t say you’re a good team until you become a good team. 

“Everybody’s saying you’re a good team, I can say we’re a good team, and if we don’t play like a good team then we’re not. We’re just fooling ourselves.” 

Yes, it’s early. Yes, their first home game is not scheduled until Saturday. But yes, there is still reason to be frustrated. 

“We can play better,” Trotz said. “That’s the bottom line.”



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