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Peter Laviolette isn't hiding the fact that beating his former team would be special.
Despite leading the Islanders to the fourth-best turnaround in NHL history in his first season and making the postseason in his only two years with the club, Laviolette was fired at the end of 2002-03 following a second straight first-round exit from the playoffs.
In conducting interviews with players following the playoffs, Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said Laviolette's poor communication with his team led to his firing.
"I'm not talking about strictly the results," Milbury said in June. "I'm talking about a methodology in coaching and communication with players. If you don't have it, it's pretty tough to succeed. And it looked to me as if it had been lost."
Laviolette, hired as head coach of the Hurricanes on Dec. 15, admitted he would take special pleasure in beating his old team as Carolina tries to catch the Islanders for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
"Of course I want to win, I feel I have something to prove," Laviolette told New York Newsday on Monday. "We want to kick butt on the Islanders. Don't get me wrong."
Although generating offense remains a big problem, the Hurricanes have been a better team since Laviolette was hired, going 8-9-1 after compiling an 8-12-8-2 record under Paul Maurice.
O'Neill has performed much better since Laviolette took over. He has six goals in the past seven games after scoring four times in his first 41 contests.
"The first half of the season couldn't have been worse," O'Neill said. "The puck is finally going over the goal line."
Poor road play in their first season under coach Steve Stirling has prevented the Islanders from solidifying their grip on a playoff spot. They are 5-12-4-1 away from home this season, including 0-3-2 in their last five.
After recording back-to-back wins at home over Buffalo and Ottawa, New York lost 2-0 at Toronto on Tuesday.
The Islanders are 3-5-2 in January following a 10-4-0-1 December.