Associated Press Feb. 24, 2013 – The New York Islanders have an opportunity for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Given how they’ve played at home, that will be far from an easy task.
After a dismal performance in their last game at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders will try to get a seven-game homestand off to a strong start Sunday night against the slumping Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders failed miserably in their third chance this season at a third straight win, losing 7-0 to Philadelphia on Monday in the worst home shutout defeat in franchise history.
That embarrassing result dropped New York to an NHL-worst 2-6-0 at home, where it has averaged 2.25 goals per game. The team is 6-3-1 on the road, scoring 3.5 per contest.
“We have no choice, but we have to play better in front of our fans,” goalie Evgeni Nabokov said.
A three-game road trip probably came at a good time for the Islanders (8-9-1), who were better in a 3-1 loss to Ottawa the next night before overcoming a two-goal deficit in a 4-3 overtime win against Montreal on Thursday.
They closed the trip with one of their best efforts of the season Saturday, getting 35 saves from Nabokov in a 4-0 victory over Buffalo. John Tavares moved into a tie for the league lead with his 12th goal and New York was perfect in six short-handed situations.
Tavares, who ranks among the league leaders with 23 points, has eight goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak against the Hurricanes (8-7-1). Linemate Matt Moulson also enjoys this matchup, tallying four goals and five assists in his past six meetings.
With games on back-to-back nights, the Islanders could rest Nabokov and give Kevin Poulin his season debut. Poulin was recalled from the AHL on Saturday, one day after the team placed struggling veteran Rick DiPietro on waivers. The 22-year-old Poulin went 2-4-0 last season, with both wins coming against the Hurricanes.
Carolina has lost a season-high three in a row after allowing four third-period goals in Saturday’s 5-2 defeat to visiting Tampa Bay.
The Hurricanes’ longest skid since an 0-6-1 drought from Nov. 23-Dec. 6, 2011, follows a 5-0-1 run that vaulted them to the top of the Southeast Division – a spot they relinquished with Saturday’s loss.
Carolina’s slump coincides with the absence of Jeff Skinner, who is dealing with his second concussion in as many years. The 2011 Calder Trophy winner ranks second on the team with seven goals and 14 points despite missing three games.
“Yes, we have injuries. Yes, we have guys playing out of their positions, and that’s tough,” coach Kirk Muller said. “But there’s not going to be any excuses. We got beat in a big game in our own rink. That’s not acceptable.”
Cam Ward figures to be back in net after backing up Dan Ellis on Saturday. Ward is 15-3-3 with a 2.40 goals-against average lifetime against the Islanders, but wasn’t particularly sharp in a 6-4 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 11.
That win ended a four-game losing streak in the series for Carolina, which is 8-1-2 in its last 11 on Long Island.
Captain Eric Staal has nine goals and five assists in his last 11 road games against the Islanders.