The New York Islanders hoped a seven-game homestand would help the team recover from a rough start. Instead, they have been just as inconsistent at Nassau Coliseum as they were on the road.
New York hopes to take advantage of what appears to be a favorable closing stretch to this homestand, starting with Saturday's matchup against the road-weary Florida Panthers.
The Islanders (3-4-2) began the season with three consecutive road losses before winning its next two games. Since then, the team has lost three of four, including a shootout loss and one defeat in overtime. The team's most recent loss came Thursday, 3-0 to the undefeated Buffalo Sabres.
"Emotionally, we were not as well as I thought we'd be," first-year Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "We didn't compete as hard as I thought we should. We played OK, but OK wasn't enough."
Nolan's club could benefit from facing a Florida team which has the most road losses in the league (1-5-1), and has played more games away from home than any other club except Carolina (eight) or Vancouver (nine). This contest ends the Panthers' road trip of three games in four nights against the New York City area teams.
Following this contest, New York gets two days off before closing the homestand against a Chicago team which will be playing for the second straight night and goes into this weekend having lost three straight.
Maybe facing some struggling opponents - Florida and Chicago were both shut out in their most recent games - can help get Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro on track.
In the first month of his record 15-year contract with New York, DiPietro has been in net for only one of the team's wins and is responsible for four losses, while his 3.87 goals-against average is among the highest in the league. DiPietro missed three games because of a groin injury and was replaced with backup Mike Dunham, who is 2-0-2 for the season with a 2.20 GAA.
DiPietro made 24 saves on Thursday while New York outshot Buffalo 29-27, but the Islanders went 0-for-3 on the power play and gave up one power-play goal to the Sabres. New York is 0-3-1 this season when failing to score with the man advantage, compared to 3-1-1 when it does.
"They capitalized on our mistakes and we just couldn't get anything penetrated," said DiPietro, who is 4-3 with a 2.75 GAA against the Panthers.
Both the Islanders and Panthers (5-6-1) are among the NHL leaders in power-play goals allowed. New York has surrendered 14, while Florida has given up 15, including two in Thursday's 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The loss was the fifth in seven games for the Panthers, who tallied another 23 penalty minutes and are among the league leaders with 194 this season.
The team's offense has been hurt by the lack of production from Olli Jokinen. The veteran center led the team with 38 goals and 89 points last season, but has scored only four times through 12 games - none in the last four - and has been held to one assist on the road.
These teams split four meetings last season, and Florida won once at Nassau Coliseum for its only victory there in the last five visits.