The New York Islanders’ chances at the Presidents’ Trophy have faded, as a sudden lack of offense has them in the midst of a season-worst losing streak.
Seeking to avoid a fifth straight defeat, New York hopes to regain its scoring touch Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils and Cory Schneider, who has been near-unbeatable in recent games.
The Islanders (43-25-4), who were tied atop the Eastern Conference standings with Montreal on March 9, now trail the top spot by seven points. They have scored one goal in each of their last four games – all losses – after scoring one or fewer goals only 10 times through their previous 68 contests.
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It hasn’t been for a lack of opportunities. New York has amassed at least 30 shots in all four losses, including 39 in a 4-1 loss at Chicago on Tuesday.
"We can’t beat them down because they’ve had some good chances," coach Jack Capuano said of his team to the Islanders’ official website. "It’s going to change … You’re going to face adversity, not only in hockey, but in life.
"You have to find a way to fight through it, battle through it. I have no doubt that these guys will."
Captain John Tavares took a career-worst minus-four in that defeat, and has failed to record a point in four straight games. A fifth such performance Saturday would mark his longest drought since a six-game skid Nov. 19-29, 2011.
Tavares, though, has eight goals and 12 points in his last eight games against the Devils.
The return of top goaltender Jaroslav Halak and standout defenseman Nick Leddy could boost New York’s chances after both players practiced this week. Halak missed the Islanders’ last game with a lower-body injury and should play Saturday, while Leddy, who has been out since March 9 with a lower-body injury, figures to be a game-time decision.
"They are two key parts for us," Brock Nelson said. "Leddy is a big part of our play in all areas and Jaro has been a wall behind us all year. His numbers speak for themselves. We need those guys and it’s good to see them back on the ice."
Leddy has a career-high 10 goals, but he’s been held without a point in three contests with New Jersey (31-29-11) this season. The Islanders have won all three meetings, and Tavares scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in New York’s 3-2 shootout victory on Jan. 9.
Schneider appeared in only one of those games, but is slated to make his 61st start of the season Saturday after Keith Kinkaid stopped 28 shots in the Devils’ 3-1 win over Buffalo on Friday.
"I think our goaltending has been consistent the last 30 games," coach Lou Lamoriello told the Devils’ official website. "I don’t think that either one of them have had a night off with the way they’ve played."
Schneider posted his third shutout in 10 games Tuesday in a 2-0 win over Pittsburgh, and owns a 0.65 goals-against average in his last three starts.
Despite a 10-3-2 run over the last 15 games, the Devils’ playoff hopes have all but vanished with a 10-point deficit, 11 games to play and two teams between them and the final wild-card spot. Still, they’ve played well down the stretch and can match a season-best four-game winning streak with another victory Saturday.
The Islanders have won five straight in New Jersey since a 3-1 loss on April 3, 2012.