Islanders Bits: New lines, new pairs, same emphasis on smarts and Mohs Scale

He brings smart, hard hockey. And an ability to carry the puck. - Al Bello

Why not make 10 the smartest and hardest? Because this team can go up to 11.

The New York Islanders losing streak (now at five games, in case you somehow needed a reminder that EVERYTHING IS WRONG!!1 (apologies to Moby)) is interrupted by a rare two days in between games during this shortened season.

That meant two days of practice to work with new line combos before Thursday's rematch with the Rangers at the Garden, where this streak reached its hump day (we hope) last week. The alignment (changes in bold):

Moulson - Tavares - Boyes
Bailey - Nielsen - Okposo
Grabner - Aucoin - McDonald
Martin - Cizikas - Ullstrom (Boulton)

I'll say this: That mix certainly spreads out the talent across four lines. It puts a pretty heavy burden on individual players to carry the top two and arguably top three lines, however.

The Islanders did not tweet out defensive pairs, however Newsday's Arthur Staple did:

Strait-Hamonic
MacDonald-Visnovsky
Finley/Hickey-Streit

There appears to be a fear -- warranted in many recent games -- that the Isles D-men aren't boxing out bodies or getting sticks in the best position when defending in front of the net. Whether this mix of pairs addresses that -- not to mention whether they're even used tomorrow -- remains to be seen.

But this alignment would break up the Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic "shutdown" pair and also make ice time more balanced across the six D. The top three ice munchers have been MacDonald, Mark Streit and Hamonic, but this setup spreads them across three pairs.

Meanwhile, given the series of one-goal (plus ENG) losses they've suffered, the players are feeling they're not far off. They're also sounding a familiar theme, per Staple's filing for Newsday:

"It's not even the case that we're playing horribly," Mark Streit said. "We're playing hard, but maybe not that smart at some times.

Smart, hard. Hahd, smaht. They are apparently one hard stone, based on the Mohs Scale of hardness. Passengers and talcum powder are not welcome. One increasingly wonders if the problem isn't in the effort or the brains, then it must be in the talent or the approach.

Elsewhere

Oh, and Thursday could be J.T. Miller's final game this season with the Rangers, unless they keep him. Maybe don't let him score two goals down the gut this time?

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