Despite a disappointing first three months of the season for both teams, the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders have reason to be excited about the new year.
Calgary looks to extend its season-best winning streak to five, while New York tries to stay hot during its best stretch of the season Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
As one of the oldest and most expensive teams in the league, the Flames were expected to at least contend for the playoffs this season. However, with his team near the bottom of the Western Conference, general manager Darryl Sutter announced his resignation Tuesday. That led to speculation that brother Brent, the team's coach, could also be in trouble.
Calgary (18-18-3), though, has played lately like it wants no part of a coaching change, beating Edmonton 2-1 on Saturday night for its fourth straight victory. Mark Giordano and Tim Jackman scored and Miikka Kiprusoff needed to make only 16 saves.
"We put ourselves in a big hole, but we are climbing up now," forward Olli Jokinen said. "We are finally at .500. It has been a couple months since we could say that."
Flames captain Jarome Iginla believes his club has turned a corner.
"It feels like we have been playing a lot better hockey of late," he said. "We're not there yet, and there is a lot of work to do, but it feels good. Everybody is finding ways to contribute. Different nights it is different guys, and that's what winning teams do."
Fantasy notes: Over his past eight starts, John Tavares has 3-7-10 with a +3 rating. After Saturday's game, Olli Jokinen has 12 points and 42 SOG in his past 15 GP. | Follow Chris Nichols on Twitter
While Kiprusoff has been a major factor in the win streak, going 4-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average, some of the team's lesser-known players have also played big roles.
Calgary's top three scorers - Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Rene Bourque - have accounted for three of the team's 12 goals during the four-game run, while depth forwards Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos have combined for four.
Kiprusoff is 1-2-1 with one tie with a 2.74 GAA in five starts against the Islanders.
New York has spent most of this season with the league's worst record, but it also may have turned a corner with a 6-1-1 mark in the last eight games.
Coming off a shootout win over Pittsburgh in which they ended Sidney Crosby's 25-game point streak, the Islanders (11-19-6) took down another of the league's heavyweights with a 4-3 overtime victory at Detroit on New Year's Eve.
P.A. Parenteau scored on a power play at 3:57 of overtime off an assist from John Tavares, who scored one goal and set up two others.
"It was a pretty sick play actually, to put it in the back of the net," Parenteau told the team's official website. "It's a good feeling. The boys are pretty happy right now."
Tavares has three goals and seven assists in his last eight games.
Another big contributor for the Islanders during their hot streak was Dwayne Roloson, but the 41-year-old goaltender was traded to Tampa Bay on Saturday for minor league defenseman Ty Wishart.
With Roloson gone, Rick DiPietro will handle the bulk of the goaltending. The oft-injured DiPietro has won his last two starts, stopping 67 of 70 shots. He is 2-0 with a 2.88 GAA against the Flames.
The Islanders have won two of their last three visits to Calgary after losing the previous six.