Hurricanes-Islanders Preview

The Associated Press

Both the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes are heading into the second half of the season on a bit of a roll.

New York looks to earn a fourth straight victory Saturday night while avoiding a sixth consecutive loss to the visiting Hurricanes.

The Islanders (14-21-7) entered this campaign with postseason aspirations after taking Pittsburgh to six games in the first round of last season's playoffs, but they're instead occupying last place in the Metropolitan Division.

New York has come on of late, though, winning five of seven after beating each of last season's Stanley Cup finalists in its last two. Captain John Tavares had two goals and two assists in Tuesday's 5-3 win at Boston, and Kyle Okposo's overtime goal gave the Islanders a 3-2 victory over Chicago on Thursday.

The Islanders haven't won four straight since Feb. 10-15, 2011.

''Right now, we're competing and we're winning some battles we weren't winning earlier this season,'' coach Jack Capuano said. ''With Boston and Chicago, you can see the skill level. We had to be on our toes, we had to be sharp, we had to execute.''

Okposo, who also had an assist, was left off the U.S. Olympic team announced Wednesday at the Winter Classic despite having 42 points to rank among the league's leaders. He has six goals and seven assists during an eight-game point streak.

''Sometimes you get tough bounces in life,'' Okposo said. ''You don't always achieve your goals. (Thursday), I thought I left everything out there.''

Tavares assisted on Thursday's winner to give him three goals and four assists during his four-game point streak, and Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves.

''I definitely hope something is brewing,'' Nabokov said. ''We have to stick with the moment and our game plan. We have put three together. Now we have to go for the fourth one.''

The Islanders, though, have dropped both meetings with the Hurricanes this season, falling 4-3 on Oct. 19 and 1-0 on Nov. 7. Jeff Skinner scored in the first matchup for Carolina (16-16-9), which has won two straight following a 0-3-2 stretch.

Skinner has been the catalyst for those victories. He scored twice to help the Hurricanes overcome a three-goal deficit in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime win over Montreal, then capped off a hat trick by scoring in OT of Thursday's 4-3 win at Washington.

The 21-year-old winger has scored at least twice in three of his last five games.

"Goal scorers can go on streaks, and he's certainly on a nice streak," coach Kirk Muller said. "You give him the opportunity and he's certainly going to capitalize. He's an opportunist. He's finding the holes now, and it's great because not only is he scoring, but he's scoring big goals for us."

Muller wasn't pleased with his club allowing three goals in the second period, but Carolina is on the verge of matching its season best of three straight wins.

"We've had some games lately that we said we thought we deserved to win, and we didn't," Muller said. "It wasn't pretty, but we found a way to win a hockey game."

Cam Ward sat out Thursday and is expected to do the same for this contest with a lower-body injury. Anton Khudobin likely will make his second straight start after stopping 38 shots against Washington.

Khudobin has never faced the Islanders, while Nabokov is 3-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average in his last five against Carolina.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, acquired from Toronto for Tim Gleason on Wednesday, made his debut with the Hurricanes and logged nearly 16 minutes on the ice.