The Islanders lost forward Nikolay Kulemin for the season, back on November 7th. In 13 games this season, he recorded just one goal and two assists, and had an even +/-. Many fans have stated that the Islanders don’t even need him in the lineup, because they just look at the offensive stats. But that is not true at all.
Kulemin has arguably been the Islanders best penalty killer over the last two seasons. Since his loss, the Islanders penalty kill ranks last in the NHL, and overall are second to last; by .1%. Kulemin, a forward with solid speed and great defensive skills, has been replaced on the PK unit by Andrew Ladd, a slower, more offensive minded player. As you can see, Kulemin brings value to the Islanders, even though he does not produce points like he used to. The penalty kill is costing the Islanders games. Like the game in Pittsburgh, which resulted in an overtime loss saw the Islanders giving up two power play goals. The game in Boston, the first goal scored by the Bruins was a power play goal. Kulemin is irreplaceable on the penalty kill, but the team can use somebody to kill penalties while he is out. Here are some solutions.
Recall Stephen Gionta
One move the Islanders could make is to recall veteran forward Stephen Gionta, who has spent the season in the AHL with the Sound Tigers. In 26 games with the Islanders last season, he scored one goal, had five assists, and was a +9. Gionta is a defensive minded forward who played very well last season killing penalties. Anyone remember that 8-4 routing the Carolina Hurricanes gave to the Islanders last season? The Islanders gave up eight goals, but Gionta was a +3 in the game. After a lot of thought, this move to call up Gionta is a must.
Teach Someone to Kill Penalties
Last season, the Islanders were able to make John Tavares, a previous offensive minded only player, to kill penalties. Now the captain is one of the team’s best penalty killers. So why not try this with other players. One player that comes to mind is Anthony Beauvillier. His role with the team is diminished a little bit. So if he is going to be in the lineup on most nights, the team should expand his role as a possible penalty killer. The same thing happened to Kulemin, who had his offensive role diminish after 2016, to become of fourth liner and a penalty killer. It could work out for the Islanders to teach Beauvillier how to kill penalties and make him a two way forward.