Islanders vie for third straight win, host Kings (Jan 21, 2017)

NEW YORK — The New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings are in pivotal portions of their schedule.

The Islanders are in the midst of playing six straight at home while the Kings are starting a five-game road trip.

New York hosts Los Angeles Saturday night in a matchup of teams trying to gain points and inch closer in their respective playoff races.

New York (18-17-8, 44 points) has resided near the basement of the Eastern Conference for most of the season but comes off consecutive shutouts for the first time since Nov. 8-11, 2014 at Colorado and Arizona. In these shutouts, the Islanders were coached by two different people.

Jack Capuano coached Monday afternoon’s 4-0 win at Boston. A day later, he was replaced by assistant coach and assistant general manager Doug Weight.

Weight presided over a 3-0 blanking of the Dallas Stars Thursday, marking the fifth time the Islanders won consecutive games. John Tavares scored twice and Thomas Greiss made 23 saves.

“There’s a lot of hockey left,” Tavares said. “Come here and put a good effort in and we did that. Now it’s about following that up on Saturday. That’s the real key.”

Tavares leads the team with 18 goals, with seven coming in the last four games. The Islanders are 9-3-1 when he scores a goal and 9-14-7 when he does not.

New York has won three straight games on two occasions this season, most recently from Dec. 20-27. Since then the Islanders are 4-3-2 and the loss before Monday was a 7-4 defeat at Carolina.

New York is 4-1-0 in its last five home games and the Islanders will play seven out of their next eight in Brooklyn. This stretch of home contests will precede 13 out of 16 games on the road.

“It was a top to bottom effort and it was led by our captain and our goalie,” Weight said. “If that continues, (there’s) going to be some good things to come.”

The Islanders rarely sustained any prosperity after winning their first playoff series since 1993 last spring. Their best run of the season was a 5-0-1 stretch from Nov. 28-Dec 8 and the Islanders were 5-7-3 before the two shutouts.

For most of the next three weeks, Los Angeles (22-19-4, 48 points) is being forced out of the Staples Center – along with NBA co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers – because of the setup required for the Grammy Awards on Feb. 12.

The Kings will be in the New York area through Tuesday to also play the Rangers and New Jersey Devils before visiting Carolina and Arizona. After a home game on Feb. 1 vs. Colorado, the Kings play four more contests in the Eastern Time Zone Feb. 4-9.

The Kings are closer to the playoffs than the Islanders but went 3-4-0 on a seven-game homestand that ended with one-goal losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks.

“Not good enough,” Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez said. “We were home a couple of weeks and we didn’t take advantage the way we should.”

The Kings were held to less than three goals for the 22nd time and fell to 3-16-3 in those games with a 3-2 loss to San Jose Wednesday. Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored but the Kings were 0-for-4 on the power play and were 4-for-22 on the man advantage in the seven games.

“Going on the road here, you want to leave on a good note,” Los Angeles defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “We’re not leaving on a good note, so we’ve got to find some I don’t know. We’ve got to find a little jam inside each other to get going here.”

The Kings’ 113 goals place them among the bottom of the Western Conference and despite getting 19 tallies, their longest homestand of the season was a disappointment.

“You need your big guys to score,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think other than Jeff Carter there hasn’t been a whole lot of that.”

Carter scored two of his team-leading 23 goals on the homestand and has nine in his last 14 games. Pearson is second on the team with 14 goals and scored four times on the homestand but Anze Kopitar, an eight-time 20-goal scorer, only has four goals this season and one in his last 16 games despite getting points in five of his last seven games.

Dwight King scored twice in a span of 25 seconds late in the third period when the Kings posted a 4-2 home win over the Islanders on Nov. 23. Last season in Brooklyn on Feb. 11, Tavares had a goal and an assist in New York’s 5-2 victory.

Los Angeles is 11-2-2 in the last 15 meetings.