One of the keys to the New York Islanders' surprising season has been their ability to avoid long losing streaks.
That skill will be tested again on Tuesday as they try to end a three-game skid when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders (19-16-3) began this season with three straight losses before beating Anaheim in a shootout on Oct. 11. They hadn't lost more than two in a row since then until recent shutout defeats to Ottawa and New Jersey preceded a 3-1 defeat Monday at Buffalo.
New York was on the verge of being shut out for the third straight game before Jason Blake scored his team-leading 22nd goal at 8:19 of the third period. The Islanders set a franchise record by going 186 minutes, 31 seconds without a goal.
"Some nights the puck doesn't go in, and other nights it will," Islanders captain Alexei Yashin said. "We have to play consistently and support each other. We're going through a tough thing right now."
Rick DiPietro has been in net for all three losses, but has played very well in each game, stopping 82 of 87 shots.
With DiPietro having started 11 consecutive games, Islanders coach Ted Nolan could switch to backup Mike Dunham on Tuesday. Dunham has only played one period since his last start, a 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Dec. 5.
While Blake is on pace for the best season of his career, several Islanders forwards have contributed very little lately. Left wing Miroslav Satan has gone six games without a goal, center Shawn Bates has one goal in 17 contests and right wing Trent Hunter has one in his last 10.
This is the first game between these Atlantic Division rivals since they pulled off a pair of trades with one another last month.
Philadelphia acquired defenseman Alexei Zhitnik from New York on Dec. 16 for defenseman Freddie Meyer and a conditional third-round draft pick. Four days later, the Islanders sent left wing Mike York to the Flyers for center Randy Robitaille and a fifth-round draft pick.
Zhitnik has two goals and four points in seven games with the Flyers, while York has no points in five games with his new team. Robitaille has no points in five contests with the Isles, and Meyer has yet to play for New York due to a back injury.
The Flyers (10-24-4) still own the league's worst record, but have won two straight following a franchise-record 10-game losing streak.
Peter Forsberg set up three goals and Robert Esche was outstanding for the second consecutive game, leading Philadelphia to a 5-2 victory Sunday at Carolina.
Coming off a 42-save performance Thursday in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay, Esche turned aside 40 shots Sunday.
Esche made his first start and second appearance Thursday since undergoing right groin surgery on Nov. 29.
"I've always been an athletic goalie, and I'm never going to lose that whether I sit for a year or whether I sit for a day," he said. "I always have that in me, and I really have a competitive side of me that takes over when I'm playing well. And that's been the case the last couple of days."
These teams have split two games this season with each winning on the road. The Flyers have won three in a row at Nassau Coliseum.