After enduring the worst stretch of their season, the New York Islanders have been playing their best hockey over the past two weeks. That could be trouble for the New Jersey Devils.
The Islanders look to win seven straight games for the first time in 18 years and continue their recent dominance over the Atlantic Division-leading Devils when they visit the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
|The Islanders have been on fire lately and will look to win their seventh-straight game when they visit the Atlantic Division-rival Devils this afternoon. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York's season appeared to be spiraling out of control as it dropped a season-high seven straight games from Jan. 24-Feb. 9. The Islanders (30-25-7) have bounced back from that skid to win six in a row, including Thursday's 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
New York has not won seven straight since reeling off nine consecutive victories Dec. 31, 1989-Jan. 19, 1990.
The Islanders are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but trail the three teams in front of them by just one point.
"The big thing is we wanted to get back to playing smart hockey and the kind of hockey we are successful with," said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who stopped 32 shots Thursday to record his third shutout of the season. "Just when everyone had us written off and it looks like we aren't going to be able to compete anymore, we find a way to win."
DiPietro has been in net for each game of the winning streak, posting a 1.98 goals-against average. He's been just as outstanding against the Devils this season, going 4-0-0 with a 1.23 GAA and one shutout.
The Islanders have won all five meetings with New Jersey (35-21-5) this season, and have won six straight over the Devils dating back to last season while holding them to nine goals. Immediately before that run, New Jersey had its own six-game win streak in this series, limiting the Islanders to six goals in that span.
On Thursday, Isles enforcer Chris Simon returned from a league-record 30-game suspension, levied against him by the NHL in December for his skate stomp on the back of the leg of Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu. Simon played nine shifts, only four after the first period, and totaled 6:17 of ice time.
"I didn't want to give him too much ice time too early, but I thought he did a great job for us," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.
Miroslav Satan scored the lone goal on Thursday, and has scored three in his last four games. Satan has two goals and three assists against New Jersey this season.
The Devils defeated San Jose 3-2 on Wednesday, as John Madden and Sergei Brylin scored 1:10 apart during a three-goal second period.
Zach Parise added his team-leading 24th goal, and has scored in a career-high four straight games. He has two goals and an assist against the Islanders this season.
New Jersey has won three straight and is 5-0-1 since its team meeting following a 2-1 home loss to Anaheim on Feb. 8.
"Timing is one thing for meetings," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "It may have put guys at ease a little bit."
The Devils are tied with Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic and tied for the second-best record in the East, one point back of conference-leading Ottawa.
"It's second nature. When you battle for positioning or you look at other teams it's important you know where you stand," said Martin Brodeur, who had 30 saves on Wednesday. "Sometimes you see something and it motivates you. You always look at it."
Brodeur has posted a 1.80 GAA during the winning streak, but has had no success against New York this season, going 0-4-0 with a 2.29 GAA. Before his current skid versus the Islanders, he had won six in a row against them, recording a 0.99 GAA and three shutouts.
He is 38-21-2 with four ties, 10 shutouts and a 2.18 GAA all-time against New York.