December has not been kind to the New York Islanders.
New York looks to end the month with a rare victory Wednesday when it hosts a Florida Panthers team that’s recently had trouble stopping opponents from putting the puck in the net.
The Islanders (11-22-4), who have an NHL-low 26 points, opened December with a 10-game losing streak before defeating Toronto 4-1 at home on Friday.
They earned another point with a 4-3 shootout loss at Buffalo the following night before losing 5-4 on the road to the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers on Monday, dropping to 1-10-2 this month.
In Friday’s win over the Maple Leafs, Rick DiPietro returned after a 27-game absence and made 28 saves to lead New York. It was only the fourth appearance of the season for DiPietro, who has had three operations since March.
DiPietro, however, is dealing with a new injury. He skipped the Islanders’ trip to Buffalo due to a groin strain and was held out of the lineup again Monday night.
Joey MacDonald made the start against the Rangers and allowed four goals in the third period after the Islanders entered with a 2-1 lead.
“We scored four goals. You should win a hockey game when you score four goals,” MacDonald said. “We had some bad bounces, bad luck, and there is not much you can do about it.”
The Islanders had some more bad luck on the injury front. Right wing Trent Hunter, who has 11 goals and 13 assists, was hit into the boards and slammed into the edge of an open door at the scorer’s table just 40 seconds into the third. A stretcher was brought out, but Hunter got to his feet and skated off toward the dressing room.
“When a player gets hurt, I think it takes the momentum out of you a little bit,” MacDonald said. “Bad things happen during the game … but you have to still battle and get right back to work.”
Hunter injured his mid-back and hip.
“I was just fighting to get my breath. I think that’s obviously scary,” he said. “I’m sure I’m going to be pretty sore.”
With the way Florida (16-15-5) is playing, Hunter would love to get back on the ice for this game. After posting consecutive shutouts from Dec. 21-23 to tie a franchise record with seven wins in December, the Panthers have allowed 14 goals during a three-game losing streak.
They lost 5-2 at home to Montreal on Monday.
“Every team goes through this,” defenseman Nick Boynton said. “And we’ve proven to ourselves that we can win. We’ve just got to get back to it. It’s not rocket science. … We’ve got some guys that are playing their hearts out and some guys that aren’t. For us to win, everybody’s got to be playing hard.”
The Panthers beat the Islanders 2-0 at home on Oct. 18 in the only meeting between the teams this season. New York has earned at least one point in 11 of its last 15 home games against Florida, going 10-4-1.