Red-hot Islanders host ice-cold Senators
NEW YORK — The hottest team in the NHL will face one of the league’s coldest squads Friday night when the New York Islanders host the Ottawa Senators at Barclays Center.
The Islanders earned their season-high fourth straight win as well as their seventh victory in eight games Tuesday when they beat the visiting Vancouver Canucks 5-2. The Senators’ worst skid in nearly six years continued Wednesday, when they suffered their seventh straight loss with a 2-1 defeat to the host Montreal Canadiens.
The four-game winning streak by the Islanders (15-7-2) is the longest in the NHL entering Thursday night. The run has been fueled by versatility up and down the lineup for New York, which has outscored the opposition 16-10 and received goals from 11 players during the run.
“I think we’ve got a pretty explosive team and we’ve got guys who are playing with a lot of confidence,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “They’re starting to consistently figure each other out and move, and not just as lines, but groups of five, which is what we want to do.”
The Senators (8-9-6), on the other hand, aren’t doing much at all of what they need to do during a losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 23-9 while going 0-6-1. It’s the second-longest active losing streak in the NHL behind the Philadelphia Flyers’ nine-game skid, and the longest losing streak for Ottawa since it went 0-6-1 from Jan. 21 through Feb. 7, 2012.
“Be pretty easy to feel sorry for ourselves right now, but that’s not going to get us out of this,” Senators left winger Zack Smith said Tuesday night.
Smith and the Senators found some reason for optimism during the last two losses. Ottawa held an early lead against the Canadiens and contained the high-scoring Islanders in a 2-1 loss Saturday night.
“Playing some pretty good hockey,” Smith said. “Just execution on a few things is not quite there.”
Neither team has announced its starting goalie for Friday.
Weight has a tough choice between Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, each of whom have won two games during the winning streak. Halak has won the last two games, a stretch in which he’s stopped 57 of 60 shots against the Senators and Canucks.
“I trust both of them, we trust both of them, like both of them, and they want to compete with each other and they both want the net,” Weight said. “So it’s all healthy. I think they’ve both earned the right to still be playing and challenging each other.”
Greiss is 3-1-0 in four career appearances against the Senators while Halak is 7-6-3 in 16 games against Ottawa.
Senators No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson, whose four-start streak was snapped when backup Mike Condon took the loss Tuesday, would seem to be the more likely choice for coach Guy Boucher. Anderson made 22 saves against the Islanders Saturday and is 8-7-3 in 19 appearances against New York.
The game will be an unusual homecoming of sorts for Senators center Matt Duchene, who was traded by the Colorado Avalanche to Ottawa while he was playing for the Avalanche against the Islanders at Barclays Center on Nov. 5.
Duchene has one goal and is an eye-popping minus-10 in nine games with the Senators.