After a dismal start to the season, the Atlanta Thrashers underwent a resurgence to become a contending team. A three-game losing streak, though, has put the Thrashers back among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Thrashers (11-13-0) hope their offense can regroup and they can start another turnaround when they face the Islanders (13-9-1) for the first time this season on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
“We have worked our butt off to get back into this position where we are contending for a playoff spot,” Thrashers general manager and coach Don Waddell said. “You don’t want to lose that. In this league, if you go a couple of weeks without a win, everybody passes you. We have to go back to playing desperate hockey and find a way to get a win.”
After Waddell fired coach Bob Hartley following an 0-6 start, the Thrashers won 11 of their next 15 games to move within five points of the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 21. This three-game skid, however, has dropped Atlanta into a tie for the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 22.
The Thrashers were shut out in two straight games before losing 4-2 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Ilya Kovalchuk became the league’s first player to reach 20 goals this season with a second-period score on Thursday. Kovalchuk has scored six of the Thrashers’ 17 goals over the last seven games.
“We don’t just expect Kovalchuk to score,” said Thrashers center Bobby Holik, who has only two goals in 24 games. “We expect all of us to score.”
Kovalchuk, though, has been limited to seven goals in 20 all-time games against the Islanders. His struggles in this series are part of the reason why Atlanta has won just five of the last 18 meetings.
Among other Thrashers failing to contribute much offensively of late is Marian Hossa, who has not scored in five straight games following a six-game stretch during which he had seven goals. Hossa has 16 goals and 17 assists in 31 games against the Islanders.
“We definitely have to get goals from somebody else,” Waddell said. “Certainly, we have to find some other goals. We can’t rely on one guy or one line to carry us all year.”
The Islanders have had their own problems scoring, failing to net more than two goals in 11 consecutive games since Nov. 6. They are 4-5-1 in that span after opening the season 9-4-0.
New York is the lowest-scoring team in the East with 56 goals.
“Right now, we’re going through a bad storm where we just can’t seem to put them in,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.
Nolan’s club is 4-for-43 on the power play in the last 10 games despite scoring once in five opportunities Thursday in a 4-2 road loss to the New York Rangers.
“Our power play has failed us for way too long,” Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. “Things have to change.”
The Islanders hope Miroslav Satan can continue to break out of his early season slump. Satan is on a three-game point streak, with two goals and an assist, after going six straight games without a point. Satan has 21 goals and 19 assists in 27 games versus the Thrashers, scoring 11 times in his last 10 games against them.
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro is 8-3-1 with a 2.38 goals-against average in 13 home appearances this season, and is 4-3-1 with a 2.46 GAA in nine starts against the Thrashers.