If the New York Islanders have a New Year's resolution, they should just keep it to themselves. Things are going too well to start jinxing things now.
The Islanders will try to follow up their best December since their Stanley Cup dynasty of the 1980s with a strong start to January as they take on the surging Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre.
The Islanders closed out their most successful December since the 1983-84 season -- the season their quest for a fifth straight Stanley Cup championship ended with a five-game finals series loss to Edmonton -- with Wednesday's 6-1 win in Pittsburgh, their sixth in a row.
New York beat the rival New Jersey Devils three times while going 10-4-0-1 during the month -- more wins than it had in December and January combined last season. The 1983-84 Islanders went 10-3-2 in December 1983.
"They are playing better than anyone in the league right now," Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said of the Islanders.
"Our confidence is a lot higher now," said Hunter, who leads NHL rookies with 14 goals and 10 assists and has 12 points in his last 13 games. "We'd get down a goal or two before and the wind would go out of our sails, now we're sticking to our game plan no matter what the score is."
The proof is in the numbers:
Much of that success comes after a seven-game losing streak and after the Islanders lost their best player, center Alexei Yashin, for three months with an arm injury on Dec. 23, five games ago.
The Islanders beat the Senators 6-3 at home in October in the first meeting this season, their first win over Ottawa at Nassau Coliseum since 1996.
However, the Senators still own a 25-9-10 lead in the all-time series, including a 12-5-4 mark in Ottawa.
Martin Prusek stopped 24 shots and Todd White scored an unassisted short-handed goal in the first period as the Senators extended their undefeated streak to seven games (5-0-2) with a 3-0 win over Boston on Tuesday.
"We have been getting the breaks lately that we've not got earlier in the year," leading scorer Marian Hossa said.