Brayden Schenn, Radek Martinek, Kevin Poulin, Josh Bailey

Defensively challenged Isles host Winnipeg tonight


The New York Islanders are 2-8-0 in their last 10 games, and it’s not hard to figure why. With 38 goals surrendered during that stretch, their goals-against average has crept up to 3.33, third highest in the NHL.

Blame for all those goals allowed has been parceled out differently depending who you ask. Some look to the goaltending of Kevin Poulin, the inexperienced 23-year-old who was forced into regular starting duties after veteran Evgeni Nabokov went on injured reserve. (Before he was hurt, Nabokov wasn’t exactly rock solid, and as an extension general manager Garth Snow has been blamed for not addressing the most important position in hockey.)

Others don’t so much blame Poulin, who was actually playing quite well earlier this month. They blame the Isles’ defense for breaking down, running around and/or failing to clear rebounds after the first save is made.

Here’s an example from Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Philadelphia that contains all three of the above elements:

Whoever’s to blame — we can’t forget head coach Jack Capuano, who’s received his share of criticism — the losing the needs to stop. Last place in the Metropolitan Division, the Isles (8-13-3) have fallen five points back of the third-place Rangers in the division and nine points back of the second wild card spot in the conference. Only the Buffalo Sabres have fewer regulation/overtime wins (2) than the Isles (5).

New York hosts Winnipeg tonight in the first of a three-game home stand that also includes Detroit (Friday) and Washington (Saturday).

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.