FLAMES (18-15-4) at ISLANDERS (11-17-6)
TV: SNET-CGY (HD), MSG PLUS
Calgary 6-2-2; New York 3-6-1
Only one inter-conference meeting this year, as has been the case since 2001-02. The Islanders have won four of the five games since 2005-06, the last Flames' win a 5-2 home victory on Jan. 8, 2009.
It's still early enough in the season that a decent winning streak can turn things around quickly, and the Flames' four-game surge is proof. They're even with Nashville for the eighth playoff spot at 40 points and a mere seven points from the fourth seed in a typically tight Western Conference. The Islanders are starting to feel the urgency, as a three-game slide has dropped them to last in the East, 11 points out of the eighth seed. Four of the next five games, however, are against teams from the West, against whom the Isles have a 3-2-4 record.
Between the injury reports and trade rumors, it's probably not surprising that general manager Jay Feaster let an anniversary slip by. On Wednesday, he marked one full year with the club, but hardly noticed.
"I honestly hadn't even thought about it being a year," he told the Flames' official website. "I think the job is such that once you're into it, it's every day and it's constant. You don't take the time to sit back and think, 'It's just a year ago,' and that sort of thing."
Expectations for this team remain high, and the recent winning streak does not take any pressure from the task at hand.
"I think I read today that we're five points ahead of last year's pace. That's not good enough," Feaster said. "It's a situation where we're not where we want to be. We expect to be a playoff team, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done. That's the focus all the time."
It's starting to look like late October-early November again, when the Isles went 2-10-4 to erase a 3-1-0 start and dig a hole from which they have yet to climb out. Now they've lost three in a row, two of those to the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, and the same issues with consistency and effort plague them once again.
"It seems like we don't learn quick enough from our mistakes," PA Parenteau
said in Newsday. "It's halfway through the year, so I guess we shouldn't still be talking about this. But we are and we have to fix it."
One fix coach Jack Capuano had in mind at practice Tuesday was putting Parenteau on a line with Frans Nielsen
and soon-to-return Brian Rolston
, plugging in Kyle Okposo
in Parenteau's place on the top line with John Tavares
and Matt Moulson
. He also tried Josh Bailey
centering Michael Grabner
and Nino Niederreiter
, but did not commit to the changes for Thursday.
No question Jarome Iginla
has had a hot hand for the Flames lately, having logged 7 goals and 17 points in December and picking up at least one point in six of his last seven games. Olli Jokinen
matches those December totals while keeping a seven-game points streak going. Curtis Glencross
' six-game points streak was snapped by the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, as Moulson's four-gamer was by the Rangers on Monday.
Injury report: Alex Tanguay
(upper body) did not make the trip with the Flames. Matt Stajan
(ankle) is still on the mend after missing four games so far. Mark Giordano
(hamstring) is skating and making progress but has no set return date. Goalie Henrik Karlsson
(knee) will soon start skating with a brace, while Anton Babchuk
(broken hand) has been cleared to play but has yet to crack the lineup.
Islanders goalie Al Montoya
(concussion) has yet to skate since his injury last week. Rick DiPietro
(groin) says he's feeling better while forward Micheal Haley
was held out of practice due to a bruised hand from a fight on Monday. Both Rolston and Steve Staios
are skating while they recover from concussions, but Rolston could be back as early as Thursday. Jay Pandolfo
(broken foot) is skating as well, but isn't expected back until late January.
Stat pack: Evgeni Nabokov
stopped 28 of 30 shots Monday but got no offensive support in the 3-0 loss to the Rangers. He's 2-8-0 on the season with a 2.76 goals-against average, losing three in a row since returning from a groin injury. … Iginla's game-winning shootout goal Tuesday night against the Blue Jackets snapped an 0-for-10 slump in shootout attempts. His one goal in regulation gave him 498 for his career.
"Some guys are giving us what they have, but I think other guys have been passengers, for sure. You can't sit around. You have to sacrifice and play with the will to compete. … We're not losing games because of systems right now. We're just losing games because we're getting outmuscled and making dumb decisions with the puck." -- Capuano after losing to the Rangers for the second time in three games Monday night