Just two weeks ago, the Islanders appeared to be on the verge of dropping out of an Eastern Conference playoff position. However, they have turned things around, winning four straight and six of seven after a six-game winless streak (0-3-1-2).
The current streak has given the Islanders a comfortable lead over the Buffalo Sabres while moving them within four points of Montreal for seventh in the East.
New York recorded one of its most impressive wins of the season, 4-2 at Philadelphia on Thursday.
With starting goalie Rick DiPietro out with the flu and Garth Snow forced to leave after one period with a groin injury, Wade Dubielewicz stopped all 14 shots he faced in final 40 minutes to win his NHL debut.
“It was everything and more,” said Dubielewicz, recalled Wednesday from Bridgeport of the AHL. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s just exciting and I’m pretty much overwhelmed.”
Blake, second on the team with 47 points, will miss at least a month with a high ankle sprain. Hamrilk is listed as day-to-day.
DiPietro—coming off back-to-back shutouts and 5-0 in his last starts—is expected to start Saturday.
This will be Laviolette’s first game at Nassau Coliseum since he was fired as coach of the Islanders following a first-round playoff loss to Ottawa last season. Laviolette, who guided New York to playoff appearances in his only two years with the club, was hired by the Hurricanes on Dec. 15.
Although Carolina will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, it has 26 points in its last 20 games and could still finish second in the Southeast Division.
Josef Vasicek completed a three-goal comeback at 8:09 of the third period, lifting the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over visiting Florida on Thursday.
Carolina is 5-2-0-2 since trading captain Ron Francis to Toronto.
“You fight the puck for two-thirds of the year, then you lose some of your best players and somehow it starts going in more than before,” Carolina’s Kevyn Adams said. “There’s really no explanation for that. You just have to try to keep it going.”