Less than three weeks ago, the New York Islanders were on the verge of surging into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Now even making the playoffs is far from assured.
Saddled with a six-game road losing streak and a freefall in the standings, the Islanders look to regain some much-needed momentum Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
After completing a 6-1-0 road trip with a 6-4 victory over the rival Rangers on March 6 and following two days later with a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, the Islanders (39-25-9) were within one point of second in the division with games in hand.
However, No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak was injured against the Penguins and the team has dropped into a 2-5-2 tailspin without him while Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have gotten red hot. The Islanders now hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference with only a two-point lead over the Flyers and Detroit.
Unable to build on Wednesday's home win over Ottawa, New York allowed two goals in 23 seconds midway through the third period of Friday's 7-4 loss at Tampa Bay.
With their season potentially hanging in the balance, the Islanders surrendered a season high in goals and gave up more than 40 shots for the first time since Feb. 2.
''It's embarrassing to give up seven goals at this time of year,'' center Frans Nielsen said. ''It's not a good feeling right now.''
Thomas Greiss, the league's save percentage leader a short time ago, has an .895 mark during a four-start losing streak. He'll almost certainly be rested in favor of rookie Jean-Francois Berube in the second of this back to back. Berube has performed well in his last two starts, going 1-0-1 and allowing one goal in each.
New York's power play has gone cold lately, converting 1 of 16 during the 2-5-2 stretch. Improving that won't be easy against a Carolina team that has killed 28 of 29 short-handed situations over its last 12 games.
The Hurricanes (32-28-14) face an uphill climb in the playoff race, sitting seven points behind the final spot with two other teams ahead of them and eight games remaining.
Losing five straight may have signaled the end of those postseason chances, but the Hurricanes snapped that slide Thursday at Columbus. Victor Rask, Chris Terry and Elias Lindholm each scored in a 98-second span early in the third period, and Eddie Lack made 42 saves in the 3-2 victory.
It was far from a perfect performance for Carolina, which was outshot 28-14 over the first two periods and 44-24 overall.
"Some nights you play great you don't have too much to do and some nights you play good when you have a lot to do," Lack said of the amount of shots he saw. "I don't have any preference, but obviously it was a good two points for us."
Lack has been extremely busy in splitting his past two starts, stopping 86 of 92 shots. He's 3-0-0 with a .963 save percentage and a shutout in his last three at home.
Cam Ward, though, could get the start in this one. He's 5-1-0 despite a 3.86 goals-against average in his last seven starts against New York.
This has been a very favorable matchup for Hurricanes center Jordan Staal, who has five goals and 16 points in the last 12 meetings.
Carolina scored five second-period goals in a 6-3 home victory on Feb. 13, its third straight win in the series.