NHL: Changes underway as slumping Sens, Isles meet


Ottawa coach D.J. Smith promised changes were coming after watching his Senators continue a month-long slump Saturday night.

For New York Islanders coach Lane Lambert, the search for answers to what is ailing his team is already underway but doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to complete.

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A pair of skidding teams will meet Wednesday night when the Senators host the Islanders.

The Senators have been off since Saturday, when they lost to the visiting Winnipeg Jets 5-1. The Islanders are concluding a two-game Canadian road trip after squandering another early lead Monday and falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.

Some struggles are to be expected for the rebuilding Senators, who have missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons and entered Tuesday tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference. But their latest skid has increasingly frustrated Smith.

The Senators have lost 10 of 16 (6-9-1) since a 14-14-2 start and are 2-6-0 since Jan. 9, a span in which they’ve been outscored 36-17. Five of the losses in the latter stretch have been by at least three goals.

Ottawa’s special teams have been particularly ineffective. The Senators entered Tuesday ranked fourth in power-play percentage at 26.29 percent but are just 6-for-32 (18.8 percent) in the last six games. Four of those goals came in a 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 18. Opponents are 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) on the power play in the same span after the Jets went 2-for-8 on Saturday.

“We’re going to shuffle the top nine,” Smith said Saturday night. “I mean, there’s guys that are minus every night and it just can’t continue. That’s on me for allowing them to keep playing together. … And if you’re getting scored on, it’s not working. So we’re going to work on every line and we’re going to grind our way out of this.”

The grind is well underway for the Islanders, who have lost five straight (0-3-2) and nine of their last 10 (1-6-3) to fall out of the final wild-card spot in the East. New York entered Tuesday three points behind the Penguins, who had three games in hand prior to hosting the Florida Panthers.

The Islanders have scored first in four of the last five games — including Monday, when Anders Lee scored with 23 seconds left in the first period — but have been outscored 18-3 in the second period and beyond.

New York hasn’t scored more than three goals in any of its last 10 games, a stretch in which Lambert has utilized 10 different combinations on the line centered by Mathew Barzal, who is tied with Brock Nelson for the team lead in points (42).

“We know we have to string a couple together and get the locker room feeling better and get the ball rolling in the right direction, so we’re just going to keep going at it,” said Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri, who returned Monday after missing 17 games due to an upper-body injury. “The start was good, but some breakdowns and that’s a high-powered offense over there that can finish their chances.”

–Field Level Media

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