RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The New York Islanders’ fast start has been quickly replaced by a four-game losing streak. Finding reasons for the skid is one problem the team doesn’t have right now.
Looking to bounce back from their worst performance of the season, the Islanders continue a road-heavy stretch against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
A season-opening 4-1-2 run offered hope for a struggling franchise that has missed the playoffs four of the past five seasons. Making the fast start even more impressive was New York’s lengthy injury list that includes standout defenseman Mark Streit, top-line forward Kyle Okposo, center Rob Schremp and defensemen Milan Jurcina and Andrew MacDonald.
The current slide started with a 4-3 road loss to Florida on Oct. 23 despite a hat trick from John Tavares and continued with two straight defeats to Montreal. The Islanders (4-5-2) put up little resistance in a 6-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday, allowing the game’s first four goals.
Rick DiPietro’s struggles continued as he gave up all six goals on 29 shots. His 3.75 goals-against average is among the league’s worst.
“Until you get a chance to get back on the ice and redeem yourself, it eats at you,” DiPietro said. “There’s no time to rest. You’ve got to expect some peaks and valleys, but we’ve got to get back to winning games.”
After averaging 3.3 goals in their first seven games, the Islanders have scored eight during the losing streak. All but two of Blake Comeau’s eight points came in the first four games while Josh Bailey has no points in his last four.
Although Streit, Okposo, Jurcina and MacDonald aren’t close to returning, Schremp is scheduled to make his season debut Wednesday. Right wing Michael Grabner also is expected to return after missing two games with a groin injury as the Islanders continue a stretch of 10 of 12 on the road.
Getting Schremp back should provide a boost to the struggling offense. He had 25 points in 44 games last season and is one of the team’s top playmakers.
Carolina (5-6-0) will try to avoid a third straight loss after falling 3-2 at Philadelphia on Monday. Pat Dwyer and Joe Corvo had goals for the Hurricanes, who have been shut out in each of their last two home games.
While the team’s overall offense has been a problem, rookie Jeff Skinner continues to impress. The 18-year-old leads Carolina with eight points, one more than captain Eric Staal.
The Hurricanes could be without defenseman Joni Pitkanen on Wednesday. Pitkanen, the team leader in ice time, sustained an upper-body injury Monday and is day-to-day.
“We’re hoping that guys like (Jamie) McBain that move the puck well can offset it this time, but you don’t take a guy like that out without feeling it,” coach Paul Maurice told the team’s official website.
This series has been decidedly one-sided lately with Carolina going 6-0-2 in the past eight meetings.
Cam Ward has been a key contributor to that dominance. He is 10-2-1 with a 2.28 GAA against New York, winning seven of eight home starts.
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