Hurricanes strong at home, next play Islanders on road
NEW YORK – The Carolina Hurricanes are finally beginning to establish a home ice advantage. They’ll be the visiting team Saturday night, when the New York Islanders move one home game closer to recovering what used to be one of the most distinct home ice advantages in the NHL.
The Islanders will play their penultimate Saturday night game of the season at Barclays Center when they host the Hurricanes in a matchup of surprising Metropolitan Division contenders.
Both teams will be playing on short rest after earning wins Saturday night, when the visiting Islanders snapped a two-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils and the host Hurricanes capped a six-game home stand with 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
The Hurricanes (11-8-3) won the final three games of the home stand to remain in fourth place in the Metro, one point ahead of the Islanders. A home stand-high crowd of 13,226 turned out to see Carolina, which has the longest postseason drought (nine seasons) in the NHL and entered Friday next-to-last in the league with an average attendance of 12,631.
“There was a lot of life in the building tonight,” Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney told reporters after he earned the win by recording 34 saves against the Panthers. “That’s what happens when you start putting wins on the board and you have a little bit of success. People get excited about it.”
Fans of the Islanders (11-8-2) are most excited about the team’s imminent return to Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, where the franchise played until the end of the 2014-15 season.
The Islanders, who rank last in the NHL in attendance with an average crowd of 10,648, will play the first of 21 games at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 1. Just eight of New York’s final 29 home games are scheduled to be played at Barclays Center. The only Saturday night game in that stretch in Brooklyn is set for Feb. 16, when the Edmonton Oilers visit in the final scheduled game of the season at Barclays Center.
Of course, nothing will excite Long Island-based fans more than a contender, and the Islanders are hoping Friday’s win – in which they overcame a game-tying goal by the Devils with 10.2 seconds left in regulation – brought a stop to a November slump. New York lost its previous two games by a combined score of 11-2 and is 3-4-1 in the last eight games.
“Obviously, we’d like to get the two points and not give (the Devils) any, but I liked our response all night and I liked our effort and I liked our battle level,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz told the team’s postgame show. “And that gives us a chance to win every night.”
Darling last started and played Nov. 17, when he took the loss after allowing four goals as the Hurricanes fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-1. Lehner took the loss Wednesday, when he gave up five goals as the Islanders were blanked by the New York Rangers, 5-0.
Darling is 3-2-0 in five career appearances against the Islanders. Lehner is 0-4-0 in four games against the Hurricanes.