Eric Staal’s early season struggles contributed to the Carolina’s slow start. The Hurricanes hope his recent resurgence can help the team start one.
Carolina (3-4-1) looks to bounce back from a disappointing loss Saturday when its visits the struggling New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum.
The defending Stanley Cup champions opened the season with a four-game losing streak before winning its next three. Staal, who led Carolina with 45 goals and 55 assists last season, had just one goal during the team’s losing streak, but has three goals and four assists since.
Overall, Staal has four goals and six points in eight games against the Islanders.
He recorded a goal and an assist in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. With the score tied at 3, goaltender Cam Ward allowed goals to Thomas Vanek and Jaroslav Spacek less than two minutes apart late in the third period.
Mike Commodore’s short-handed goal with 1:15 to play closed the scoring.
“They’re a good team,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said of Carolina. “They won the Cup. They’re a heck of a test. They gave us all we could handle.”
For Ward, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, the game was a disappointing setback after strong showings in his previous three starts. The 22-year-old allowed 11 goals in his first three starts before settling down and holding opponents to five in his next three.
Ward is 2-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average in his career facing the Islanders.
Saturday’s game also ends a season-high seven-game road trip for the Hurricanes, who are 3-3-0.
The inconsistent Islanders (2-3-2) started the season with three straight losses, won two in row and followed that with two more losses, including a 4-3 overtime defeat Thursday to Pittsburgh.
After sending the game into overtime, New York gave up a power-play goal 3:33 into the extra session. The Penguins had the man advantage after Alexei Yashin was called for hooking.
The center, who leads the team with three goals and seven points, was called after Sidney Crosby appeared to slash Yashin and did not get called for it.
“They got some breaks in overtime that they shouldn’t have gotten, and that was the game,” goaltender Mike Dunham said.
Dunham has started in place of Rick DiPietro, who has a groin injury and has not played since Oct. 10. DiPietro, though, is reportedly set to return for this contest.