Despite being near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the New York Islanders have played like a playoff contender of late.
The same can’t be said for the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Wrapping up an already successful road trip, the surging Islanders look to beat the Blackhawks for a seventh consecutive time Sunday night at the United Center.
New York’s 32 points are second-fewest in the East, but the Islanders (13-20-6) have won eight of 11 after a 5-18-5 start. They improved to 3-1-0 on their five-game trip with a 4-3 overtime win at Colorado on Saturday.
One day after being called up from Bridgeport of the AHL, Jeremy Colliton(notes) scored twice and John Tavares(notes) added the winner as the Islanders prevailed despite allowing the tying the goal with 4 seconds left in regulation.
“We’re not going to call guys up that we don’t have a strong belief in and come here to sit in the stands,” interim coach Jack Capuano said. “I know what they can bring to the table.”
Chicago (22-18-3) also blew a late lead Friday, but beat Ottawa 3-2 in a shootout for its second win in six games.
Inconsistent overall play and a modest 13-11-0 home record have the Blackhawks bouncing in and out of playoff position.
“We know we’ve got a real talented team in here,” said Patrick Kane(notes), who scored Friday for the first time since Nov. 30. “If we stick to the game plan, play defense first and get our chances, then things will go pretty good for us.”
Little has gone well for Chicago against the Islanders of late.
The Blackhawks have been outscored 30-12 during a six-game skid against the Islanders since a 3-2 victory at New York on Dec. 10, 2002. Chicago has dropped three straight at home to New York since a 4-3 win Dec. 7, 2001.
Kane, however, has two goals and two assists in two career games versus New York.
Nathan Lawson(notes) could be in net for the Islanders for the first time since Thursday, when he got pulled for allowing two goals on three shots in the opening minutes of a 2-1 loss at Edmonton. Poulin replaced him and stopped all 19 shots he faced,
Lawson, 0-1-1 with a 3.44 goals-against average this season, has seen more time since Dwayne Roloson(notes) was traded to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Day and Rick DiPietro(notes) suffered a groin strain Tuesday.
Tavares has four goals and three assists in the last four games, but failed to register a point March 2 in a 5-3 victory over the Blackhawks - his only career game against Chicago.
Opponents are 0 for 13 on the power play against New York over the last five games.