GAME: New York Islanders (19-15-2-1) at Ottawa Senators (18-10-5-3).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
If the New York Islanders have a New Year's resolution, they should just
keep it to themselves. Things are going too well to start jinxing things now.
The Islanders will try to follow up their best December since their Stanley
Cup dynasty of the 1980s with a strong start to January as they take on the
surging Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre.
The Islanders closed out their most successful December since the 1983-84
season -- the season their quest for a fifth straight Stanley Cup championship
ended with a five-game finals series loss to Edmonton -- with Wednesday's 6-1
win in Pittsburgh, their sixth in a row.
New York beat the rival New Jersey Devils three times while going 10-4-0-1
during the month -- more wins than it had in December and January combined last
season. The 1983-84 Islanders went 10-3-2 in December 1983.
"They are playing better than anyone in the league right now," Penguins
coach Eddie Olczyk said of the Islanders.
Jason Blake had two goals and two assists, and rookie Trent Hunter had his
third two-goal game to lead the streaking Islanders.
"Our confidence is a lot higher now," said Hunter, who leads NHL rookies
with 14 goals and 10 assists and has 12 points in his last 13 games. "We'd get
down a goal or two before and the wind would go out of our sails, now we're
sticking to our game plan no matter what the score is."
The proof is in the numbers:
- Garth Snow has been tremendous in goal since seizing the No. 1 spot from
Rick DiPietro, going 9-2-0-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .927 save
percentage in his last 12 games.
- Defenseman Adrian Aucoin was a plus-3 Wednesday, raising his
league-leading plus-minus rating to plus-26.
- The Islanders are 12-3-1-1 when rugged center Dave Scatchard plays. He
missed 20 games with a shoulder injury.
- The Islanders are 32-0-4-0 in the last 36 games they lead after two
Much of that success comes after a seven-game losing streak and after the
Islanders lost their best player, center Alexei Yashin, for three months with
an arm injury on Dec. 23, five games ago.
The Islanders beat the Senators 6-3 at home in October in the first meeting
this season, their first win over Ottawa at Nassau Coliseum since 1996.
However, the Senators still own a 25-9-10 lead in the all-time series,
including a 12-5-4 mark in Ottawa.
Martin Prusek stopped 24 shots and Todd White scored an unassisted
short-handed goal in the first period as the Senators extended their undefeated
streak to seven games (5-0-2) with a 3-0 win over Boston on Tuesday.
"We have been getting the breaks lately that we've not got earlier in the
year," leading scorer Marian Hossa said.