HURRICANES (20-30-7) at ISLANDERS (23-26-8)
Carolina 6-4-0; New York 3-7-0
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. After the Isles won the first two games, Carolina responded with a 4-1 victory at the RBC Center on Jan. 28. Matt Cullen and Eric Staal
each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes.
After an impressive start to the month of January that featured wins against Colorado, Phoenix, Buffalo, Detroit and New Jersey, the Islanders have gone into a tailspin. They've lost six consecutive games in regulation and have fallen five points out of a playoff spot with Thursday's 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay.
Carolina snapped a two-game skid with Friday's 4-3 victory at Buffalo, but it was bittersweet as goaltender Cam Ward
was ruled out before the game due to an upper-body injury. He returned to Raleigh for further evaluation.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice said Ward stiffened up on the team's flight from Calgary to Buffalo late Wednesday night. Manny Legace started against the Sabres, while Justin Peters
was recalled from AHL Albany. Ward had started 26 of the previous 27 games for the Hurricanes. Legace, though, nearly missed the start after being struck by an Aaron Ward slap shot during warmups.
"It's been one of those seasons," Staal said. "It was kind of, 'What else is new for us?' But the great thing about the guys in this locker room is that no one has quit and no one has felt sorry for each other. We came in here and beat a pretty good team that’s at the top of the conference."
Jon Sim gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead during the second period, but the Lightning responded with four unanswered goals as New York dropped its sixth straight on Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Isles' power play was non-existent, going 0-for-4. Overall, the team has scored only eight times during this skid.
"It has snowballed," coach Scott Gordon said. "Very rarely do you have your whole team go cold. It's hard to believe that we're not scoring on some of those chances and it's been consistent that we haven't."
Staal has notched at least a point in 11 consecutive games. He leads the club with 45 points (20 goals, 27 assists).
Besides Ward, Hurricanes forwards Chad LaRose
, Scott Walker and Tuomo Ruutu
are also out with upper-body injuries, while Erik Cole is questionable. … Islanders forward Josh Bailey
is out until after the Olympic break with an upper-body injury, while defenseman Jack Hillen will miss roughly another month with a broken jaw. Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone) and Radek Martinek (torn ACL) are also out.
Isles center John Tavares
, who earlier this season was well on his way to a Calder Trophy nomination, has not scored a power-play goal in 26 games. Overall, he has just one goal since Dec. 26.
"We’ve got to push it during these games before the (Olympic) break. We've got to amass some points, because we've got some ground to make up." -- Isles defenseman Andy Sutton to Newsday after Thursday’s loss at Tampa Bay.