The New York Islanders are off to a fast start, and they're in position to hand the Chicago Blackhawks their first three-game winless streak since February 2012 when the teams meet at the United Center on Friday night.
The Islanders have followed up a surprising playoff berth last season by starting 2-0-1 in 2013-14, and they're coming off a 6-1 home victory over Phoenix on Tuesday.
The lopsided result was due in part to a strong effort from Evgeni Nabokov, who made 33 saves and stopped 16 of 17 shots in the second period.
"We got some bounces. Let's not kid ourselves," Islanders Jack Capuano said. "The score didn't indicate the way the game was."
Hart Trophy finalist John Tavares scored his first two goals of the season as he joined a balanced Islanders attack. Four New York players have at least four points, and nine have scored goals.
Michael Grabner leads the way with two goals and four assists, three of which came against Phoenix. He had five assists in 45 games last season.
Grabner and linemates Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey have accounted for 15 of the team's 30 points.
"We always have a lot of speed on our line, and that helps in the transition game," Grabner told the team's official website. "We've scored a few goals off the rush."
Chicago (1-1-1) last went three games without a victory during a three-game losing streak Feb. 23-26, 2012. It's on the verge of matching that slide after a 3-2 defeat at St. Louis on Wednesday, as Alex Steen scored the winner with 21.1 seconds left off an odd-man break.
"You've got to get that game to overtime," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You take one (point) maybe two. You don't get none. That's unacceptable."
The Blackhawks got power-play goals from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to erase a pair of one-goal deficits, but never led. Chicago blew a 2-0 third-period lead in its previous contest, a 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
"Tonight, we got robbed of two points," Toews told the team's official website. "Last game, we got robbed of one point. ... We have to finish stronger regardless of the score. We got caught a few times tonight, and they scored two goals off it. We won't get frustrated, but definitely feel we have some work to do."
Kane has one goal in each game this season and has scored in five straight regular-season games to tie a career high.
The Blackhawks are 4 for 11 on the power play while the Islanders are 3 for 10. New York, though, has killed off 6 of 7 short-handed situations while Chicago has killed just 4 of 9 after allowing a league-low 18 power-play goals during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
The Blackhawks have won the past three matchups with the Islanders, getting four goals and two assists from Patrick Sharp. The teams last met Dec. 8, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum, a 3-2 Blackhawks win in which Sharp had two goals and an assist.
Nabokov has struggled in his last six games against Chicago, going 1-2-3 with a 4.00 goals-against average.
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