The Florida Panthers' scoring surge in January has put them in the hunt for a spot in the postseason. A meeting with the defensively challenged New York Islanders might help them move up further in the Eastern Conference standings.
Florida looks to continue piling up points and tie its season high with a third straight victory on Saturday night when it visits a New York team also trying to match a season best with three consecutive wins.
The Panthers (23-17-8), who haven't made the playoffs since the 1999-00 season, are in eighth place in the East and would move into seventh Saturday with a win in this game and a Buffalo loss.
They have outscored opponents 44-28 to earn a point in 10 of their 11 games (7-1-3) this month. That stretch includes a three-game win streak from Jan. 6-10, the third time this season they posted three consecutive victories.
Florida had another high-scoring game Thursday, getting power-play goals in the first period from Jay Bouwmeester and Stephen Weiss in a 5-1 home win over Montreal.
"You don't get many nights like that as a coach where you walk out and feel pretty good about almost every component of how the game went," Florida's Pete DeBoer said. "Now it's going to be up to us to reproduce that."
Richard Zednik, Radek Dvorak and Michael Frolik also scored for the Panthers, while Weiss added two assists and Cory Stillman helped set up three goals.
"Probably our best 60 minutes of the season from a system point of view and how we want to play," DeBoer said. "I think we've done a good job of playing to our identity in spurts and at times. Tonight it was the full 60 minutes."
While he believes the Panthers are playing well, DeBoer doesn't want them to forget about their 4-2 road loss to the NHL-worst Islanders (14-29-5) on Dec. 31.
"They're a better team than their record indicates," he told the Panthers' official Web site. "They're good at home. This is an emotional game for us, and the trap is we (have to) show up with the same type of emotion and effort the next game because the two points against the Islanders is as valuable in the standings as the two points tonight."
New York, which is near the bottom of the NHL in goals allowed with 168, has won two straight after losing its first eight games (0-7-1) this month. The Islanders won a season-high three in a row Nov. 13-17.
They nearly blew a 4-0 lead in Atlanta on Thursday night, but after the Thrashers cut the deficit to 4-3, Kyle Okposo scored his second goal of the game with 7:21 left in the third period to help the Islanders hold on for a 5-4 win and snap an 0-13-1 road skid.
Okposo, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, has four goals in the last three games. On Thursday he was set up twice by Josh Bailey, the ninth overall selection last year.
"He knew where I was," Okposo said. "He knows how to find me. He has good vision. He's easy to play with. Sure, there's chemistry."
These teams meet again Thursday in Florida, where the Panthers beat the Islanders 2-0 on Oct. 18.