The Carolina Hurricanes won their first Stanley Cup championship in June 2006, and in the fall played themselves into contention in the Southeast Division after a slow start to the season. So far, 2007 hasn't been nearly as kind.
The Hurricanes try to avoid being shut out for the third time in as many games in the new year when they host the slumping New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Carolina (21-18-4) averaged 3.4 goals per game during a season-high five-game winning streak from Dec. 16-26, including a 5-1 win over the Islanders on Dec. 22. The Hurricanes have dropped four of five since that run, however, averaging 1.4 goals during the current stretch.
They lost 3-0 to the Pittsburgh on Tuesday in their first game of 2007 and were blanked again Thursday, 2-0 by Phoenix for their third consecutive loss.
"It's not the attack we're used to seeing here, but there were chances and they're not finding their way into the back of the net," said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who coached the Islanders for two seasons before taking over in Carolina during the 2003-04 season.
Carolina has been shut out six times in 2006-07, twice as many as last season. The Hurricanes were booed by their home crowd Thursday when they didn't get a shot on goal during a third-period power play.
"They had a step on us, and they shouldn't," Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams said. "We have a puck-chasing, offensive-minded team, and no one should have the upper hand or a step up on us. There are no words to describe the disappointment we feel right now. We're a much better team than we're showing."
The Hurricanes could be much better if they were healthy. Left wing Cory Stillman is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and defenseman Bret Hedican is out up to four weeks with a finger problem.
The Hurricanes should get a boost from the return of Kevyn Adams, though, as the center is expected back after missing nine games due to wrist surgery and a staph infection.
Cam Ward has been in goal for each game during Carolina's rough stretch, but he's 3-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average in four starts against the Islanders, including three straight wins.
New York (19-18-3) will be trying to snap a season-high five-game skid, during which it has been outscored 14-6. The Islanders trailed by two goals just over two minutes into the game Thursday and never recovered en route to a 4-3 defeat to New Jersey.
Trent Hunter, Andy Hilbert and Mike Sillinger each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, who lost despite outshooting the Devils 43-26.
"The effort is there," said Islanders coach Ted Nolan, whose squad is playing the second game of a four-game road trip. "We're not getting any breaks. We made a turnover, it's in the net."
New York's Rick DiPietro is 5-6-0 with a 2.94 GAA in 11 starts against the Hurricanes - the six losses tied for his second-most against any opponent.
The Islanders, though, have won two of three meetings with Carolina this season.
New York center Shawn Bates is day-to-day with a hand injury, prompting the Islanders to recall center Frans Nielsen from Bridgeport of the AHL. Freddy Meyer, acquired from Philadelphia on Dec. 16, has missed 10 games with a back injury but has been cleared to play in his first game with his new team.