Hurricanes-Islanders Preview

Given their play there this season, the New York Islanders would probably just as soon continue to make Nassau Coliseum their home beyond 2015.

The Islanders look to put the finishing touches on a successful home-heavy stretch and complete a season sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday evening.

A playoff appearance is becoming increasingly more likely for the Islanders in their final season at Nassau Coliseum before the franchise moves to Brooklyn in 2015-16. They regained the Metropolitan Division lead with a 2-1 victory over Calgary on Friday, their 23rd win on home ice to tie Tampa Bay for most in the Eastern Conference.

”We just focused on trying to win,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. ”We obviously see the standings. We know we’re jockeying for positioning.”

Jaroslav Halak stopped a penalty shot and came within 20.9 seconds of a shutout in his franchise-record 33rd win, breaking the mark he shared with Billy Smith, Chris Osgood and Rick DiPietro.

”I’m not happy about it, but we got the goal and we won 2-1,” Halak said of losing the shutout. ”I was glad when it was over."

Ryan Strome and Cal Clutterbuck had goals for New York (41-20-2), which improved to 8-2-1 in its last 11 games, wining six of eight at home during that span.

The Islanders begin a four-game trip Tuesday in Dallas after completing this four-game homestand.

It’s possible Halak will be rested Saturday in favor of Chad Johnson, who is 2-1-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average in his last four starts after going 2-5-0 with a 3.83 GAA in his previous seven. Johnson has stopped 58 of 62 shots in a pair of wins against Carolina this season.

Tavares assisted on Strome’s power-play goal, giving him five goals and 13 points in eight games. Tavares has seven points against the Hurricanes this season, tying Brock Nelson for the team lead.

That production has helped the Islanders score 13 goals in winning the first three meetings.

Carolina (23-30-7), though, has won two straight and four of six after a 3-0 home victory over Washington on Friday. Anton Khudobin turned aside 28 shots for his fourth career shutout and the Hurricanes’ first since Nov. 1.

”In this league, when you get the lead and you can extend the lead, you’re in good shape,” coach Bill Peters said. ”That’s what we did tonight, and when we broke down and needed (Khudobin), he was there.”

The win came in Carolina’s first game after trading third-leading goal-scorer Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg and defenseman Andrej Sekera – and reigning team MVP – to Los Angeles on Wednesday. Those two combined for 42 points this season.

Cam Ward figures to be back in net for Carolina. Ward has posted a 1.67 GAA during a three-start win streak and stopped 23 shots in his 500th game Tuesday, a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia.

Ward is 17-4-3 with a 2.64 GAA in 26 career starts against the Islanders, but allowed all five goals on 26 shots in a season-opening 5-3 loss Oct. 10.

Jeff Skinner scored a goal in his third straight game Friday and has six in eight contests following a 10-game drought.

Eric and Jordan Staal should be disappointed to be playing their final game at Nassau Coliseum. Eric has 12 goals and nine assists in 21 career games there, while Jordan has six goals in his past eight visits.