After struggling to stop opponents from scoring in the early part of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers have shored up their defense. That's not good news for the offensively inept New York Islanders.
Philadelphia tries to extend its winning streak to four games and hand visiting New York its fifth straight loss when the Atlantic Division rivals meet for the first time this season on Thursday.
The Flyers had no trouble scoring in their first six games of the season, registering 20 goals over that span, but they allowed 29 in getting off to an 0-3-3 start.
Since that rough stretch, though, Philadelphia has continued its high-scoring ways and gotten better at preventing teams from finding the back of the net.
The Flyers have won three straight, outscoring opponents 16-5 to improve to 3-3-3. They set a season high in goals and recorded their first shutout of 2008-09 on Tuesday in a 7-0 victory at Atlanta.
Mike Knuble, Simon Gagne and Joffrey Lupul each scored twice and Antero Niittymaki stopped 24 shots in his fourth career shutout for Philadelphia, which reached the Eastern Conference finals last spring.
"After the success we had last season, maybe we thought it would be easy this season," said Gagne, who also had two assists. "It's tough to get two points. Now I think we're back the way we played last season."
Knuble has four goals in the last three games and seven points in his last five.
"We got a great result," he said. "We scored every which way. These are treats."
New York (2-6-0) is having trouble scoring in any way.
The Islanders are near the bottom of the NHL with 19 goals and own the fewest points in the league. They suffered their fourth straight loss on Monday night, 4-2 to the division-leading New York Rangers.
The Islanders again played without goaltender Rick DiPietro, who sat out with a lower body injury. DiPietro had surgery on his knee and hip during the offseason and has appeared in only three games thus far, going 0-2-0 with a 3.91 goals-against average.
Joey MacDonald (3.54 GAA) has appeared in six games for the Islanders, who have been decimated by injuries to their defensemen and are also among the league leaders in goals allowed (29).
Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek are a few weeks away from returning, while Freddy Meyer is listed as day-to-day with an abdominal injury.
"It's a little disappointing," MacDonald said. "The bounces aren't going our way right now. Eventually, they'll turn our way."
New York will get some help on the blue line Thursday as Andy Sutton is expected to make his season debut following hand surgery. Sutton appeared in 58 games last season and was second on the team with 86 penalty minutes.
Philadelphia won seven of the eight meetings between these teams in 2007-08, including all four at home. The Islanders were outscored 14-5 at the Wachovia Center and 30-16 overall in the season series.