The New York Islanders began their recent surge with a victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. They hope another win over their Atlantic Division rival will boost their confidence while playing without their leading scorer.
The Islanders look for their first victory without center Alexei Yashin as they host the Flyers on Thursday in the second meeting between the teams this season.
New York (12-8-3) rebounded from back-to-back losses with a 3-1 win Nov. 9 over the Flyers, sparking an impressive 6-1-1 run over its next eight games. The Islanders suffered just their second regulation loss in three weeks on Tuesday, however, and had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Viktor Kozlov and Arron Asham scored for the Islanders, but they felt the absence of Yashin - who missed his first game of the season with a sprained right knee. Yashin, who leads New York with 28 points, was hurt in Saturday's win over Washington and is expected to be out two to four weeks.
"He was playing some great hockey, so it's a little setback for us," Islanders center Mike Sillinger said.
Yashin was the main catalyst in the win over the Flyers (7-15-3) with two goals, but the Islanders will need someone else to step up Thursday. New York's second-leading scorer, Jason Blake, has five goals and three assists in his last six games against Philadelphia. He has played well recently for the Islanders, totaling five goals and four assists during a six-game point streak.
New York goaltender Rick DiPietro was in goal for the win over the Flyers, but is just 2-6 with a 2.90 goals-against average in eight career starts against them. The Islanders are going for their fourth straight home win, but will face a Philadelphia squad playing well on the road.
Philadelphia went 1-7 on the road to open the season, but has since won three of last its last four. The Flyers are 12-3-1 with a tie in their last 17 games at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders.
The Flyers are coming off a tough 3-2 defeat Wednesday to the Nashville Predators, though, which snapped a modest two-game win streak. R.J. Umberger tied the game at 2 with less than seven minutes left, but Martin Erat scored the game-winner for Nashville just 1:22 later off a Flyers' turnover in the Predator's zone.
"You make a play like that, you lose a game and there's nothing you can do about it," said defenseman Mike Rathje, who had the crucial giveaway. "Tha's the way the hockey is. You make a mistake like that and people are going to be upset about it."
The Flyers have had a lot to be upset about this season. They are currently in last place in the Atlantic Division with 17 points - nine less than fourth-place Pittsburgh - and lead the Eastern Conference with 15 regulation losses.
"We're in a deep hole," Flyers center Peter Forsberg said.
The Flyers hope to make up some ground against the Islanders, whom they have beaten in six of their last nine meetings. Philadelphia leading scorer Simon Gagne has a four-game point streak against New York with four goals and two assists in that span.
Mike Knuble scored his eighth goal Wednesday for the Flyers after signing a two-year contract extension earlier in the day. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki made 26 saves in the defeat, but dropped to 5-11-3 with a 3.07 GAA this season. He is 1-3 with a 2.78 GAA in four career starts against the Islanders.
Backup goaltender Robert Esche had groin surgery Wednesday and could be sidelined up to a month. Martin Houle was called up from Philadelphia's AHL affiliate to back up Niittymaki.