Making the playoffs with the league's worst offense figures to be extremely difficult. If their recent play is any indication, the New York Islanders may not have that concern much longer.
The Islanders seek their fifth win in six games Monday night when they face the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time this season.
New York (19-16-2) has spent most of this season in desperate search of offense, scoring three goals or fewer in 22 straight games at one point. The Islanders have scored 90 goals this season, tied with Phoenix for fewest in the league.
Lately, though, New York's offense has seen a dramatic improvement with 18 goals in the past five games. The Islanders have scored four goals twice during that span, and did one better on Saturday with a 5-2 victory over visiting New Jersey.
Defensemen Chris Campoli and Andy Sutton each had a goal and an assist, and backup Wade Dubielewicz earned his first win as a starter this season with 27 saves.
"It felt pretty good," Dubielewicz said. "I hadn't had a win in a game I started this year. Our team, as a group, played a pretty smart game tonight. They kept New Jersey on the perimeter, which made my job a little easier."
Dubielewicz was filling in for injured starter Rick DiPietro, who is day-to-day after suffering a knee injury Wednesday against Toronto.
"It was a big game for Dubie," coach Ted Nolan said. "It helps his confidence, and in turn, it gives the team confidence that they can win with Dubie in the net."
The Islanders have won four of five with the lone loss coming on the road to Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa.
One of the key contributors lately for the Isles has been right wing Richard Park, more noted for his defensive ability throughout an 11-year career. Park, who set a career high with 26 points last season, has one goal and six assists in his last four games.
Top-line center Mike Comrie has three goals and two assists in the last three games while captain Bill Guerin has four goals in four contests.
The Hurricanes allowed three second-period goals and never recovered Saturday in a 4-1 loss at Columbus.
Eric Staal scored for Carolina (20-17-3), which still leads the mediocre Southeast Division despite failing to win back-to-back games since Nov. 10-12.
"It was three bad things that happened in a row, coach Peter Laviolette said about the Blue Jackets' second-period outburst. "They made the most of their chances."
Cam Ward was replaced by John Grahame at the start of the third period after allowing three goals on 20 shots.
Ward is likely to be back in net Monday considering he is 4-0-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Islanders.
Staal has goals in four straight games and points in seven in a row. Ray Whitney has four goals and five assists during a six-game point streak.
Carolina could again be without center Matt Cullen - third on the team with 37 points - after he suffered a broken nose against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
Rod Brind'Amour recorded his third career hat trick in Carolina's 8-3 victory on Long Island on Oct. 27.
The Hurricanes have won three straight against the Isles, outscoring them 17-6.