Islanders credit ‘structure’ as big reason for recent resurgence

The tweaks were minor, but the impact has been noticeable.

As the Islanders have started to find their game over the last couple of weeks, the buzzword in their dressing room has become “structure” — which is to say they’ve tightened their play in the defensive zone and without the puck, limiting shots and high-danger chances better than they have for much of the season.

The result, over a 3-1-1 stretch since Feb. 20, has been fewer occasions on which goaltender Ilya Sorokin has needed to bail out the team and one of the better runs of hockey the Islanders have played since early in the season.

“I think you’ve seen it at times all season, [but] I think there’s definitely times where we got away from it, too,” Scott Mayfield said following practice Friday. “We know how we need to play, we play a very structured game. So that’s where we’re at our best. You did see it the last couple games, I think we’ve gotten into that structure pretty quick. We’ve kind of played that physical style that we like to play and I think the commitment’s been there.”

Coach Lane Lambert made reference Thursday to “a couple of adjustments” he has made since Mathew Barzal got hurt, while adding he would have done the same even if the star center were healthy.

Scott Mayfield, battling the Wild's Marcus Foligno for position during a recent game, said the Islanders are now playing a more "structured game."
Scott Mayfield, battling the Wild’s Marcus Foligno for position during a recent game, said the Islanders are now playing a more “structured game.”
NHLI via Getty Images

“Maybe just a little more attention to detail, the little details within the structure,” Noah Dobson told The Post. “I think anytime when you have some key players out with injuries, the guys really step up. … I think guys have really bought into that. Guys have really tried to just step up, guys have really tried to elevate their games with the guys we have out.”

The forward lines at practice featured one minor shift from Thursday, with Otto Koivula centering Simon Holmstrom and Josh Bailey on the fourth line, with Ross Johnston skating as an extra.

Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) has started skating, per Lambert, though it’s not clear what the timeline is on his return from injured reserve.

Likewise, Lambert declined to give a time frame on Barzal or Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The 12:30 start Saturday against the Red Wings is the Islanders’ only home game all season with a puck drop before 5 p.m.

Sorokin was the first goaltender off the ice Friday, though Lambert declined to confirm him as the starter against Detroit.