The New York Islanders hope to continue their long climb back into playoff contention Friday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes in the opener of a seven-game homestand in Elmont, N.Y.
The Islanders’ month-long losing streak overshadowed their unveiling of a long-awaited new arena and put them into a major hole in the standings. They are playing much better of late, however, and get a chance to go over the NHL version of .500 for the first time since early November.
Upon ending their 11-game losing streak on Dec. 7 with a 5-3 win at Ottawa, the Islanders are 8-3-1 in their past 12 games — and are 5-1-0 in their last six.
The Islanders began Thursday with the fourth-fewest points in the Eastern Conference and 14 points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild-card spot. Yet, New York had played four fewer games than Boston entering Thursday.
“That’s a starting point,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We have our nose just at the water level now and let’s see if we can climb our way out of the pool.”
The Islanders are 6-2-1 in their past nine home games after dropping their first six contests at the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park, just east of the New York City limits.
Following a frustrating 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, they cruised to a 4-1 home win over the Philadelphia Flyers two days later. The next night, they completed a home-and-home sweep of the Flyers by winning a nine-round shootout in Philadelphia.
“It’s definitely big,” New York center Casey Cizikas said. “It puts us in a good position to keep moving forward and keep climbing those standings.”
Arizona’s 24 points are the fewest in the Western Conference but the Coyotes are seeking their season-best third straight win. On Wednesday, they opened a four-game road trip by handling the New Jersey Devils, 4-1.
Arizona is 5-3-2 in its past 10 games since dropping six straight from Nov. 30-Dec. 15. The Coyotes have scored at least four goals five times in their past 10 contests after doing so just three times in their first 28 games.
They are finding success despite getting outshot in eight of their past 10 games. On Wednesday, Arizona survived getting outshot by a 36-17 margin by scoring three times in a span of 7:23 in the second period after being outshot 12-1 in the opening 20 minutes.
“We just had a little more urgency,” Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun said after returning from an 11-game absence due to injury. “We were skating better and we played a little more structured.”
Dysin Mayo, Lawson Crouse and Travis Boyd scored in the second period before Johan Larsson tallied in the third. Karel Vejmelka made 35 saves and owns a .947 save percentage and a 1.85 goals-against average in 10 road games.
Ilya Sorokin, who has won his last four starts for the Islanders, shut out the Coyotes, 3-0, when the teams met in Arizona on Oct. 23. Cal Clutterbuck, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier scored.
–Field Level Media