The New York Islanders currently occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They will likely have to play a lot better in the season’s final two months to remain there.
The struggling Islanders hope to avoid their first six-game home losing streak in nearly seven years Thursday night when they face the league-worst Los Angeles Kings.
In the first game following the All-Star break, the Islanders spotted Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa a three-goal lead and never recovered in a 5-2 loss Thursday.
All-Star Rick DiPietro wasn’t sharp, allowing four goals on 25 shots, and New York (24-21-6) was hurt by the absence of two regulars - left wing Ruslan Fedotenko and defenseman Andy Sutton - who both were out with the flu.
Sean Bergenheim and Bryan Berard scored for the Islanders, who dropped to 1-3-1 in their past five games overall. They are 0-4-1 in their last five contests at Nassau Coliseum, their longest home skid since a seven-game slide from Feb. 27-March 29, 2001.
The Islanders haven’t won at home in 2008, as their last victory at the Coliseum came against New Jersey on Dec. 29.
“We go on the road, and we’re pumped up in another team’s building,” center Mike Sillinger said. “We have to show more desperation at home. We’re finding ways to lose, and we have to turn it around quick.”
Sillinger, though, may not be available to help the Islanders try to end their home skid. He was one of five players that missed practice Wednesday with the flu, a group that also includes DiPietro, Fedotenko, Sutton and Berard.
If DiPietro is unable to play, Wade Dubielewicz would make his seventh start of the season. Dubielewicz has been very good lately, going 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his last three starts.
One of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, the Islanders haven’t received much production lately from top center Mike Comrie, who has one goal in his last 12 games. Right wing Miroslav Satan has been even worse, scoring one goal in his past 16 contests.
The Kings kicked off an eight-game road trip Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia.
“We got a point out of it in a tough building,” coach Marc Crawford said. “It’s something we can build on.”
Goaltending has been a concern all season for the Kings, but Jason LaBarbera has performed very well lately. LaBarbera, who has never faced the Islanders, is 5-2-1 with a 2.69 GAA in his last eight starts.
Both teams have struggled on the power play lately.
New York has scored on only five of its last 41 opportunities with the man advantage while Los Angeles is 1-for-22 in its past five contests.
This is the Kings’ first visit to Long Island since Feb. 16, 2004, when the teams played to a 1-all tie. Los Angeles is 5-2-0 with one tie in the last eight overall meetings with the Islanders.
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