John Tavares has been one of the NHL’s most productive players during a prosperous stretch for the New York Islanders, but his team didn’t need him to get on the scoresheet in its latest win.
Judging by his performances against the Carolina Hurricanes, there’s a good chance Tavares won’t make it back-to-back games without a point Thursday night.
Tavares has compiled four goals and six assists while the Islanders (6-2-1) have won six of seven, but it was Frans Nielsen who carried much of the scoring load in a 4-0 victory against Calgary on Monday.
Nielsen scored a pair of third-period goals and Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves in his second shutout in four games since returning from an upper-body injury.
Mikhail Grabovski provided the Islanders’ third power-play goal in as many games. They’ve gone 6 for 20 with a man advantage in the last seven contests and have killed off all 21 penalties in their past six.
"We’re definitely doing some good things," forward Kyle Okposo said. "We’ve played pretty well over the course of the year, but I think there’s still some room for improvement to play a full 60 minutes. We definitely are starting to come together and starting to learn how we need to play to be successful again."
Tavares will try to lead that charge for a complete performance while adding to his 16 goals and 30 points against Carolina (3-6-0), his most against any team. The Islanders captain has four goals and five assists during a five-game point streak versus the Hurricanes.
Brock Nelson had four goals and three assists as New York won three of the four meetings between the Metropolitan Division foes in 2014-15. Carolina avoided the season sweep with a 5-3 victory Feb. 28, its fifth in its last six road games in the series.
The Hurricanes will head into a different building this time, the Barclays Center, for the finale of a seven-game road trip. Carolina is 3-3-0 on that trek following a 3-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday.
Cam Ward stopped 25 shots for the Hurricanes, who were outscored 8-2 in their prior two games in California. Carolina has earned two of its three wins on its trip against the Red Wings.
"It showed how well we can play when things are going our way and we do things the right way," Ward said. "We’ve got to carry over the momentum from a game like tonight and take it into (Brooklyn)."
With Carolina returning home Friday to play Colorado, it’s unclear if Ward or backup Eddie Lack will be in net for this game. Ward is 4-1-0 in his last six starts against the Islanders despite a 3.94 goals-against average while Lack is 1-1-0 with a 3.05 GAA in three career matchups.
Halak is 2-2-1 with a 2.17 GAA in his past five against Carolina.
Jordan Staal has five goals and seven assists in his last 10 games versus the Islanders but has no points this season. Carolina is 1 for 19 on the power play in its last five contests.