January 03, 2015

Paced by the play of Jaroslav Halak, the New York Islanders couldn't ask for a better start to their longest road trip of the season.

Halak and the Islanders can improve to 4-0-0 on the trek and end their struggles at Edmonton by handing the Oilers an eighth consecutive defeat Sunday night.

The 10-year veteran had a 4.26 goals-against average while going 1-4-0 from Jan. 25-Feb. 13, then was benched for the next two games in favor of Thomas Greiss. Halak returned to the starting role for this seven-game trip and has led New York (33-19-7) to wins in the first three, allowing a combined two goals and posting a .978 save percentage.

''Your goalie has to fight for his space,'' coach Jack Capuano said. ''I'm not a goalie coach but I do know if you sit back, you're in trouble. You've got to get out, you have to challenge, you have to hack and whack at certain times in front to protect your area and he's done that.''

The Islanders will try for an eighth win in 10 games while looking to extend their point streak to six games after Halak made 31 saves and Josh Bailey scored late in overtime of Thursday's 2-1 victory at Calgary.

"This is how a lot of these games go down the stretch," Bailey told the NHL's official website. "They are battles to the bitter end. You want to find a way to come out on top and I'm glad we did."

The unit that's killed an NHL-best 87.4 percent of its penalties has helped Halak by taking care of all eight on the trip.

Halak has a 1.86 GAA while winning six of seven starts against the Oilers (22-34-7), but he watched as Greiss made 30 saves in an 8-1 rout of Edmonton on Feb. 7 that began the Islanders' current 7-1-1 stretch. Kyle Okposo had a hat trick but has failed to score since that game.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, giving him 10 points in seven games against the Oilers. He has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 14 overall.

New York has managed seven goals during an 0-4-1 slide at Edmonton, but the Oilers have dropped five straight at home and allowed 17 goals over the last four.

That's part of a seven-game losing streak overall which is their longest of the season. Edmonton has been held to one goal in three consecutive contests and seven times during a 1-8-2 stretch while going 3 for 33 on the power play.

Coach Todd McLellan, however, was pleased with the overall effort from back-to-back 2-1 road losses this week against the Pacific Division's top teams - Los Angeles and Anaheim.

''I think we have become a pretty scrappy team," said McLellan, whose club recorded a season-low 18 shots in Friday's overtime loss to the Ducks.

"We're stepping into the ring with Muhammad Ali right now with some of these teams and we're able to stay in until the late rounds. That's not good enough. We've got to find ways to win.''

Star rookie Connor McDavid has been held without a point in back-to-back contests for the first time in 13 games since missing almost three months with a broken clavicle. He has four goals with eight assists in seven home games since returning and also scored at New York this month.

With more trades likely to come, Edmonton announced Saturday it dealt backup goalie Anders Nilsson to St. Louis for minor-league netminder Niklas Lundstrom and a draft pick.

You May Like