NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers have nearly identical records. The manner in which the teams are currently playing, however, couldn’t be more different.
The Islanders look to win a season-high fourth straight game while extending Edmonton’s skid to eight Thursday night at Rexall Place.
After spending most of this season with the league’s worst record, New York (12-19-6) has engineered an impressive turnaround lately. The team is 7-1-1 after winning only one of its previous 21 contests.
The Islanders’ current three-game winning streak started with a shootout win over Pittsburgh in which they ended Sidney Crosby’s 25-game point streak, and they beat another of the league’s heavyweights with a 4-3 overtime victory at Detroit on New Year’s Eve.
They improved to 2-0 on a five-game trip with Monday’s 5-2 win at Calgary, getting two goals and an assist from the red-hot John Tavares. Matt Moulson also scored twice as New York won despite losing goaltender Rick DiPietro to a lower-body injury in the second period.
“I don’t know if a man’s body is supposed to be contorted in those kind of positions,” said DiPietro, who was facing a barrage of pressure during a Flames power play when he got hurt. “I felt a twinge and hopefully it’s nothing serious.”
Nathan Lawson made 28 saves in relief in his second career appearance and is the team’s likely starter against Edmonton. Lawson lost 4-3 in a shootout to Phoenix on Dec. 18 in his NHL debut.
“It feels good to get a win and get a few games under my belt now,” Lawson said. “It’s a dream come true. I just want to keep rolling with it and prove myself now.”
Monday’s win improved the Islanders to 8-9-3 under coach Jack Capuano after Scott Gordon guided the team to a 4-10-3 mark before he was fired Nov. 15.
Tavares’ improved production is among the biggest reasons for that success. The second-year forward has five goals and eight assists in his last nine games after totaling six points in his previous 19.
Edmonton (12-19-7) is another young team that has few expectations this season. While the Oilers have shown flashes – most notably a 7-2-1 stretch early last month – they are 1-7-2 since that hot streak and are entrenched at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Their struggles continued with a 5-3 loss to the visiting Red Wings on Tuesday, allowing two late third-period goals to drop to 0-5-2 in the last seven.
The seven-game skid is the Oilers’ longest since dropping 13 in a row Dec. 31, 2009-Jan. 18, 2010.
“We just have to go. I would rather have a tough night because we are going after things and stepping on the gas than playing with trepidation,” coach Tom Renney said. “You have to go after them and see what we are capable of.”
Renney’s club has scored three goals or fewer nine times in the last 10 games, going scoreless on 11 power-play opportunities over the past five.
The Islanders, coming off their win at Calgary, haven’t swept a pair of games in Alberta since Oct. 7 and 8, 1982. New York is 7-2-0 in its last nine overall against the Oilers but hasn’t won in Edmonton since March 13, 2003, when current general manager Garth Snow made 22 saves in a 5-2 victory.
© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.