It is not exactly a state secret that professional sports are results driven.
But with an 82-game schedule at his disposal, instead of the 48-game sprint that was the 2013 season, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano is primarily focused on his team’s effort.
“The thing is this, when you go back and watch the game again, we outchanced the [Sabres in the 4-3 shootout loss on Oct. 15] 24-7 or whatever it was. There’s not a whole lot you can ask your team,” Capuano said in response to a question about finishing games during his Tuesday morning media availability. “We played well in the third period. To me, it was one of our best third periods of the year. We didn’t come out with the two points; the guys weren’t rewarded. If we give that effort, the way we played the last game, [then] we’re going to win hockey games. That was the message to our guys. We have to continue to play [that way].”
One Islander that Capuano will demand more of is Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Signed to a one-year, $2 million unrestricted free agent deal to replace Brad Boyes on the top line, Bouchard has three assists in seven games and was a healthy scratch for the 3-2 loss in Nashville on Oct. 12.
“We’ve had [a] conversation on how he needs to play,” Capuano said. “I told him my expectations of him and he gave me his concerns. He got an opportunity in the last game and I think he took advantage of it. But there’s got to be consistency.”
When pressed to expound on “consistency,” Capuano pointed at Bouchard’s “will to compete, the battle level, the ability to make plays.”
“Obviously he’s a guy we signed ... a creative guy, a point-producing type guy,” Capuano said. “He’s only going to get those points and he’s only going to be productive if he competes hard and works hard every shift.”
Injuries piling up
The Islanders were shorthanded last night as defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and right wing Michael Grabner (suspension) missed the game. Defenseman Matt Donovan and right wing Colin McDonald dressed in their place. Donovan skated on a pairing with Brian Strait.
Rookie center Brock Nelson, who was called up Monday, dressed. Nelson had been scratched the last three games.
“Obviously it’s two young guys and you want to get them in there,” Capuano said, referring to Nelson and Donovan before focusing on the center. “Right now some of our forwards [are playing] well and I’ve told Brock to keep working on his game, working hard, and it’s a good situation that he’s getting the pace practice.
“Those guys are practicing, getting a good pace, getting good teaching and eventually we want to get those guys back in. So Matt will go back in tonight and Brock we’ll just evaluate day-to-day.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.