The New York Islanders are making a push to get back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Their biggest rival would love to slow their momentum.
The Islanders try for their longest winning streak of the season when they host the New York Rangers.
The Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Tuesday for their third straight win, and they have not lost since capping an 0-2-1 stretch Jan. 24 with a loss to New Jersey. Jason Blake scored a power-play goal and added an empty-netter for New York, which also won three straight in mid-November.
The Islanders fired coach Steve Stirling last month and announced that general manager Mike Milbury would soon be replaced. Nonetheless, their recent surge has them just six points behind Toronto for eighth place in the conference.
“We didn’t play our best hockey, but the bottom line is that we won,” Blake said. “We don’t have tons of talent, so the way we’re going to have the best chance to win is by hard work.”
Blake scored a goal for the first time in 14 games, dating to Dec. 30. Oleg Kvasha also scored twice, and Miroslav Satan added a goal for the Islanders, who have scored at least four goals in each of their last three games.
“Jason had two big goals,” coach Brad Shaw said. “It was nice to see a smile on his face after the game. It’s a big relief for him, and adds another weapon to our arsenal.”
Center Kevin Colley broke his neck after crashing headfirst into the boards and will undergo surgery on Thursday. The team did not say whether the injury, which did not cause paralysis, would end his season or endanger his career.
The Islanders know they’re in for a battle against the Rangers, who lead them by 19 points in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers are 10-2-2 in their last 14 matchups against the Islanders.
“Right now, in my opinion, they have the best player in the league with Jaromir Jagr,” Blake said. “We’re trying to gain points against a rival, as well as gain points to get a playoff spot.”
The Rangers won for the fifth time in seven games Wednesday, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1. Steve Rucchin scored a short-handed goal after stealing a Sidney Crosby pass, and Michal Rozsival and Petr Sykora also scored.
Rookie Henrik Lunqvist, who leads NHL rookie goalies with 22 wins, made 24 saves. The Rangers, who wrapped up a 3-1-1 homestand, rebounded after blowing a two-goal third period lead to Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia in Monday’s overtime loss.
“It felt good to get a win again because the last loss really bothers me and I think it bothers the whole team,” Lundqvist said. “It feels good to be back on the right track.”