The New York Islanders' recent winning streak has kept them in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference - right alongside the Washington Capitals, another team looking to sneak into the postseason.
The Islanders and Capitals, both sitting just outside playoff position, will be looking for two important points when they meet at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night.
New York (28-25-7) recently lost seven straight to fall out of the East's top eight, but has responded with four consecutive wins, including Monday's 3-2 comeback victory at home over San Jose.
New York hasn't won five in a row since December 2003.
The Islanders trailed the Sharks 2-0 early in the third period, but got three goals in an eight-minute stretch, including the winner from defenseman Freddy Meyer with less than nine minutes left.
|The Islanders and Captials are currently on the outside and looking in regarding the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Both teams have been hot as of late and will battle for important points tonight at the Verizon Center. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
That kind of improved offensive play has carried New York on its current run. The Islanders managed just 11 goals during their seven-game skid, but they've scored 16 over their four-game win streak.
New York is among the NHL's bottom five teams with just 2.47 goals per game this season, but 10 Islanders have scored goals during the current run. Four have come from Ruslan Fedotenko, and Meyer has scored two after 73 straight games without a goal.
"I'll take whatever I can get," Meyer told the Islanders' official Web site. "All that's important is that we got the win, which was huge. We're right back in it, but we have to keep going."
The Capitals (28-26-6) are in a similar position, one point behind the Islanders and tied for 11th in the tightly bunched East. Washington is also tied for second place in the Southeast Division.
The Capitals avoided a third straight loss with a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday. Washington blew a 2-0 advantage in just 33 seconds late in the third period, but regained the lead less than a minute later on Alexander Semin's goal.
"It seems like we say it after every game," Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig said. "Don't leave our games early. The resolve to get the winning goal says a lot about our team."
NHL goals leader Alexander Ovechkin was held without a point for the second straight game, but Washington snapped a four-game losing streak in games in which he fails to record a point. The 22-year-old forward tops the league with 48 goals.
Washington also won despite allowing 41 shots, the most since it gave up 53 to Buffalo in a 7-3 loss on Oct. 13. Kolzig had 39 saves, allowing only two goals for the third straight game.
The Capitals have lost two straight and 10 of their last 13 against the Islanders, failing to score more than two goals in any of the last eight meetings. New York, meanwhile, has managed five or more goals in seven of the last 13 matchups.
Forward Bill Guerin has four goals in New York's last two games against the Capitals, including a hat trick in his last visit to the Verizon Center on Oct. 18, a 5-2 Islanders win.
New York won't have defenseman Andy Sutton on Wednesday as it tries to extend its run. Sutton tore a hamstring in the closing seconds against San Jose and will be sidelined from four to six weeks.
It is the latest blow to an Islanders defense corps already missing Brendan Witt and Bruno Gervais.