The scene is eerily similar to last season. Strong start the first handful of games, followed by a disappointing two-game swing in Florida. But next?
The Islanders don't want to go down that road again.
A loss to the Panthers last October 23 began a dreadful 13-game winless streak that ultimately got head coach Scott Gordon fired. Almost exactly a year later, the Islanders find themselves in a similar hole. After dropping two games in Florida, the team suffered it's second shutout loss of the season, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Penguins.
Coach Jack Capuano doesn't think he needs to send a message. His club finished with nothing to show for it but had 33 shots on goal and 17 scoring chances in an effort far better than the past two road losses. He said he hasn't considered shuffling lines or trying out other combinations to spark the offense.
"It hasn't even crossed my mind yet," he said after his team's third straight loss.
Capuano has not split up his first line mainstays -- Matt Moulson, John Tavares and PA Parenteau -- since taking over for Gordon last November and seems unlikely to do so now. That trio -- which has combined for 10 of the team's 14 goals over the first seven games -- has carried the rest of the team offensively.
But the other lines need to step up. Not just to create chances, but to finish.
Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen proved to be a dangerous tandem last season, but have scored only three goals combined. Poised for a breakout year, linemate Kyle Okposo has yet to score his first of the season.
"I've been thinking about it a lot," Okposo said of the team's lack of secondary scoring. "I think we just have to keep doing what we're doing, keep shooting pucks to the net. Our line has to keep trying to utilize Grabner's speed a little bit better. Teams have watched him play, so Nielsen and I have to do a better job of putting him in situations where he's going to succeed. We just need to get a little more cohesiveness as a line and put the puck in the net."
Nielsen found Grabner for a breakaway in the second, which resulted in the latter drawing a tripping penalty, but the line has struggled to recreate the same chemistry established last season.
"We gotta hold onto the puck more rather than just throw the puck away when we have it, " Nielsen said. "We've got to do a better job without the puck. A big part of our game last year was our transition game, making them turn the puck over and using our speed. Somehow it just feels like we have to go 200 feet every time we get the puck back."
It's not just the second line that has failed to carry their weight. Besides veteran Brian Rolston, who has two assists, no forward on the third or fourth line has recorded a point in the first seven games.
If the Islanders want to turn things around and snap a three-game losing streak, that's a good place to start.