John Tavares and the New York Islanders are feeling good after stringing together back-to-back victories over likely playoff-bound teams.
The Carolina Hurricanes seem unlikely to make the postseason, but beating them would be just as important to the Islanders' morale.
Tavares looks to lead New York to a rare home win over the Hurricanes when they meet Saturday night.
After defeating Washington 3-0 on Tuesday, the Islanders (18-21-6) snapped a 13-game losing streak in Philadelphia with a 4-1 win on Thursday. Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and Michael Grabner scored and Evgeni Nabokov made 40 saves as New York won in Philadelphia for the first time since April 7, 2007.
"The way we played, our approach to the game, our attitude, the way we stuck with things, didn't give them a whole lot," Tavares said. "We definitely can enjoy it, that's for sure"
Tavares helped set up the goals by Moulson and Streit, and now has six goals and 13 assists during an 11-game point streak that ties Boston's David Krejci for the NHL's longest this season. His streak is the longest by an Islander since Mark Parrish had a 12-game run (five goals, eight assists) from Oct. 17-Nov. 14, 2001.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence," coach Jack Capuano said. "His will to compete, his will to want to help this team, I think it's carrying over to some of our other guys right now."
Tavares certainly seemed to display some extra intensity in Carolina on Jan. 3, assisting on all three regulation goals as the Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak in the series with a 4-3 shootout win.
Tavares now looks to help his team end its struggles against the Hurricanes in Long Island. New York has been outscored 11-5 in losing three straight home games to Carolina, which is 7-0-1 at Nassau Coliseum since a 4-2 loss on Nov. 22, 2006.
Cam Ward has been instrumental to Carolina's dominance, going 14-2-2 with a 2.24 goals-against average and a shutout lifetime against the Islanders. It's his best record against any Eastern Conference opponent.
Nabokov, who has stopped 80 of 83 shots in winning his last three starts, has fared well against the Hurricanes in his career, going 7-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA and a shutout.
Ward made his sixth straight start in net Friday and stopped 22 shots in a 3-0 victory over Washington for his second shutout. He is 4-2-1 with a 1.56 GAA in his last seven starts, yielding two goals or fewer in each.
Jussi Jokinen scored a power-play and shorthanded goal for the Hurricanes (17-24-8), who won for the first time in three games.
"As a group and as a team, we're playing a lot more of a consistent brand,'' captain Eric Staal said. "We haven't won every game, but at least we felt good about our losses, if that makes any sense. We've competed hard and been in every game, and played a brand that, if we can do (that) for 60 minutes, we'll get the right results.''
Staal, who has team highs of 25 assists and 36 points, has eight goals and three assists in his last eight games at Nassau Coliseum.