John Tavares has led the New York Islanders toward the top of the Eastern Conference with one of the best seasons of his career, but as his scoring has slowed so has his team’s success.
The Anaheim Ducks failed to stop Tavares in their only matchup with the Islanders this season, but few teams are having trouble slowing New York down heading into Saturday’s matchup at Nassau Coliseum.
Tavares has managed only two points over his last seven games, six of which the Islanders (44-26-5) have lost during a stretch in which they’ve totaled 10 goals. The drought has dropped Tavares (74 points) behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (75) in the NHL’s scoring race and into a tie for second with Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek.
After again failing to record a point in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Los Angeles, Tavares accepted blame for his team’s poor play.
"I don’t think we’re far off," Tavares told the Islanders’ official website. "We’re not getting blown out, we’re not far away from earning two points. It’s just some of the little details that are big points at this time of the year. We just have to be a little sharper.
"It starts with me. And doing the little things at important times cost. I have to be better. Guys look to me and it starts there. As a group we just have to stay with it."
The Islanders’ captain has had better luck against the Ducks. He scored twice in New York’s 3-2 overtime win on Nov. 5 and has eight points in seven all-time meetings.
Anaheim (47-22-7) surrendered 12 total goals over the first two games of its five-game road trip before rebounding with a 3-2 overtime win in Boston on Thursday.
"We were better all over the ice," Ryan Getzlaf told the Ducks’ official website. "We played a great team in Boston, and battled them right to the end. Those are things we want to establish down the stretch."
Frederik Andersen made 27 saves in the win to bounce back from Sunday’s disaster against the New York Rangers, where he was pulled less than 11 minutes into the game after allowing three goals on seven shots.
"(Andersen) was good," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I had all the confidence in the world he was going to save the day."
Andersen figures to be back in net Saturday given John Gibson’s unreliable play of late. The 21-year-old allowed four goals in relief Sunday and owns a 4.41 goals-against average in his last two appearances and an .883 save percentage in his last six.
Jaroslav Halak will likely be in net for the Islanders, and needs only four more starts to match his career high of 57.
Halak owns a 1.59 GAA over his last five games, but is 1-3-1 in that span due to a lack of support.
Getzlaf recorded one of his two career hat tricks and the Ducks beat the Islanders 5-3 in their most recent trip to Long Island on Dec. 21, 2013.