It's been a little while since the Carolina Hurricanes or the New York Islanders won consecutive games, but it's probably only a requirement for one to make the playoffs.
It'll in fact take quite a bit more for Carolina to climb the Eastern Conference ladder, and that near-desperate attempt continues Tuesday night in Brooklyn as the clubs meet for the second time in four days.
While the Islanders (40-25-9) are trying to catch Pittsburgh for third in the Metropolitan Division, entering this contest three points back with a game in hand, the Hurricanes (33-28-15) have more work to do to track down a wild-card spot.
They followed Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders with a 3-2 win over New Jersey, and while a three-point back-to-back home set is nothing to be ashamed of, Carolina needs to string together wins. It's 2-2-4 since last doing so March 8-10.
"We're going to grind and keep going. We're going to keep playing hard. We've beaten some good teams," coach Bill Peters told the team's official website. "We're going to continue to do what we do. We believe in ourselves. I know there's a lot of confidence in that room, and I have confidence in the guys. We're just going to keep finding ways."
Victor Rask shouldered the load against the Devils, scoring twice to reach 20 goals after totaling 11 as a rookie. The 23-year-old has scored in three straight and has upped his point production from 0.41 per game last season to 0.61 in similar ice time.
"It should be a proud moment for him, and it's very encouraging for us," Peters said. "He's a goal scorer and has an offensive side to him but he's a good two-way player. He's a 200-footer and a good disposition about himself. He wants to be the best he can be. He's going to get better this summer, and I know he works very hard. He's going to emerge as a leader for us moving forward."
Rask has three goals in the last two games versus the Islanders, which have helped the Hurricanes to a 3-0-1 run in the series with 4.25 goals per game.
The Islanders' win last week came with two goals by Cal Clutterbuck, who doesn't get all that many chances but has made the most of them while leading the NHL in shooting percentage (20.3). His 15 goals are tied for his second-best total and four off the 19 he scored in 2010-11 for Minnesota. That took him 191 shots. He's needed 74 this season.
"He's got such a good release, and he's got a great shot, and he can score goals if you give him some time," Kyle Okposo said. "He's been playing really well for us all year, scoring some big goals, and tonight was huge."
The Islanders are positioned for consecutive wins for the first time since winning four straight to start the month. They've since gone 3-5-2 with 3.67 goals against in the last six, yet they remain very much alive for the Metropolitan's higher seeds. The second-place Rangers are even within reach at six points ahead, and the Islanders have two games in hand.
In goal, that opponent scoring has most often fallen on Thomas Greiss with Jaroslav Halak out. Greiss has lost his last four games with a 3.60 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Rookie Jean-Francois Berube faced Carolina and has posted 1.58 and .946 marks over a 2-0-1 span.
He was opposed by Eddie Lack while Cam Ward faced New Jersey. Ward is 9-0-2 in his last 12 visits to the Islanders since losing his first back in 2005-06.