While the New York Islanders have surged to a surprising NHL scoring lead, the Winnipeg Jets are sitting on the opposite end of that spectrum.
Frans Nielsen looks to lead another offensive barrage and help the Islanders continue their success against the Jets on Tuesday night.
New York (6-2-0) missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years last season due in large part to a 2.63 scoring average that ranked 10th in the Eastern Conference.
So far this season, the Islanders aren’t having any problems finding the net with 31 goals and a 3.88 average that top the league. They’ve scored at least three times in each of their victories while being limited to a total of three goals in two defeats.
New York went well beyond that mark Saturday, beating Dallas 7-5 two days after winning 3-2 at Boston to avoid a three-game skid.
Nielsen has four goals in the past two games after getting four assists through the first six. The center’s latest impressive performance was a three-goal third period against the Stars that marked the first hat trick of his nine-year career.
"It was pretty cool," Nielsen said. "We know we’re a good team and we’re working hard. We wanted to make a statement in the beginning, and we’ve done it."
Nielsen’s breakout has been aided by linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, who have five points each after combining for four against Dallas.
"They are both really smart players, and it’s fun playing with them," said Nielsen, who has three points in his past three meetings with Winnipeg.
Another strong offensive showing may be needed since the Islanders are giving up an average of 3.38 goals while switching between Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson.
Johnson has started the last two games, stopping 82 of 92 shots to improve to 3-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average in four starts.
Halak, meanwhile, has a 3.39 GAA and 3-2-0 record after giving up seven goals on 60 shots while losing back-to-back starts. However, he’s won five straight against the Jets with a 2.08 GAA, while Johnson has lost two meetings in shootouts despite a 0.92 GAA.
While it’s unclear if Halak or Johnson will be in net, one of them could be in for a solid performance against the Jets (3-5-0), whose 15 goals are among the fewest in the NHL. That total includes a 6-2 season-opening win at Arizona on Oct. 9.
Winnipeg has just one goal while losing two road games since, and it’s next four come away from home. The Jets, though, are trying to pick up some steam after Bryan Little scored with 24.2 seconds left in overtime for a 2-1 win over Colorado on Sunday.
Little has scored in two straight games, giving him a team-leading five goals on the season. The center has netted three of his tallies on the road, but he doesn’t have any over his past five visits to Nassau Coliseum.
Andrew Ladd, however, has three goals in the past two overall meetings with the Islanders, including a pair in a 3-2 overtime loss at home March 4. The left wing enters this matchup with two goals and two assists in three games after getting one of each against the Avalanche.