GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (6-13-4-3) at New York Islanders (9-13-2-0).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Islanders are united in misery.
Both teams will be trying to end seven-game losing streaks -- a 12-game
winless skid for Chicago -- when they meet for the only time this season
Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
The only team currently struggling more than the Islanders may be the
Blackhawks, who are 0-8-1-3 since beating Nashville on Nov. 7, dropping them to
last in the Western Conference. While New York has been outscored 26-7 during
its losing streak, Chicago has managed to keep most of its game competitive,
losing its last seven by a combined 23-13.
Third-period goals by Buffalo's Dmitri Kalinin and Maxim Afinogenov lifted
the Sabres to a 3-2 victory at Chicago on Wednesday.
The 12-game winless skid is the Blackhawks' longest since an 0-10-3 drought
from March 29-April 23, 1995.
"Sometimes we're just trying to do too much," Chicago defenseman Nathan
Dempsey said. "It's just critical mistakes at critical times and critical
moments that are killing us."
Chicago's slump coincides with the loss of starting goalie Jocelyn Thibault,
who was in goal for his team's last win. Thibault sustained a hip injury in
that game and is expected to be out until February following surgery.
Rookie goalies Michael Leighton and Craig Anderson, both 22, have struggled
to take Thibault's place. Leighton has allowed 24 goals during a personal 0-6-1
skid while Anderson has surrendered 16 in five consecutive losses.
"Overall, they've played well," Blackhawks general manager Bob Pulford
said. "This will probably end up a positive for them. They're both playing as
the No. 1 goaltender and feeling the pressure of that. They're not relying on
Thibault. They're taking his place."
Even a visit from the archrival New York Rangers couldn't help the
Islanders, who fell behind 3-0 Thursday before coming to life in the third
period of a 4-2 loss.
Islanders captain Michael Peca was given a five-minute major and an
automatic ejection for kneeing Rangers forward Jamie Lundmark in the second
period. The Rangers capitalized with two power-play goals and held on despite
getting outshot 19-2 in the third period.
"We had exhausted players after the third, so that's a positive,"
defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. "I don't think we've had enough of that this
Peca's hit will be reviewed by the league and he could face a suspension.
"I know on the play I didn't stick my leg out," Peca said. "He was
planted on his skates. I just tried to finish my check."
Islanders star center Alexei Yashin had gone 12 games without a goal and
seven without a point before scoring in the third period Thursday.