DETROIT – The yin to the Islanders’ yang of improving defensively under Barry Trotz was not supposed to be a total drop-off in offensive production. The new coach wants to coax solid two-way performances from his players.
Yet the Islanders have just eight goals in their current 1-3-1 slide and a two-game losing streak into Saturday night’s game against the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
The Islanders (13-11-3), who did not practice on Friday, opened this two-game road trip with a lackluster 6-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The power play went 0-for-2 with three shots, extending its drought to 0-for-19 over the past nine games and 4-for-48 in their last 16 games.
“Teams are going to score,” center Mathew Barzal said. “You’ve got to find a way to put four, five on the board. You’ve got to find a way to push that side of the game a little bit.”
Barzal (three goals, 18 assists) has gone without a point in his last three games and has just two assists over his last six games. But that just mirrors the Islanders’ play.
The top-six forwards, overall, have struggled to produce.
“I don’t think there’s any frustration,” Barzal said. “I’m just trying to play the right way, I guess, just adapt to the system and try to do as much as I can within the system.”
Top-line center Brock Nelson’s shorthanded goal on Thursday snapped his eight-game goal drought, and none of his 10 goals this season have come on the power play. Right wing Jordan Eberle has one goal in his last 10 games and has been held without a point in five of his last six games. Right wing Josh Bailey, dropped to the third line for the first two periods on Thursday, has a goal and two assists over his last nine games. Left wing Anthony Beauvillier, after netting four goals in two games Nov. 15-18, has just two goals and one assist in the eight games since.
Only captain Anders Lee, with goals in four straight games, is providing steady production among the top six.
Still, Thursday’s loss was a rare total clunker for the Islanders thanks to, for the most part, their tightened defensive play. The Islanders also lost to the Jets, 3-1, on Tuesday at Barclays Center but with a much better effort undone by allowing two third-period goals within 22 seconds.
“We played a pretty good game against Winnipeg and didn’t get the result,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to get back to that and raise our battle. It’s a big one on Saturday.”
The Red Wings (13-12-4) are in a 1-2-2 slide at home but won, 5-4, in overtime at Toronto on Thursday.