The special teams are clicking and the goals keep coming in bunches, but the New York Islanders need to improve when they grab the lead.
The New Jersey Devils need to find any way to win.
These Atlantic Division rivals will meet for the third time this season - and second in four days - as the Islanders try to send the visiting Devils to their first five-game losing streak in two years Sunday.
Back from a 3-1-1 trip that ended with Thursday's 5-4 overtime victory over New Jersey (3-1-3), the Islanders (4-2-1) are looking for more strong special-teams play as they go for a season-best third consecutive victory.
New York is among the NHL leaders on the power play, converting 37.5 percent (9 for 24) after succeeding in six of eight chances over its last three games. The Islanders were 3 for 4 with the extra skater Thursday.
They also killed all five of New Jersey's power plays. New York has failed just once in 25 short-handed situations.
"A big part of what we do has been special teams, on both sides," said Brad Boyes, whose power-play goal past Martin Brodeur on Thursday was the game-winner. "We're getting key plays at key times."
However, the Islanders haven't been at their best when leading. They couldn't hold a two-goal advantage in the third period of last Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss at Winnipeg, and New Jersey tied Thursday's game three times after trailing by a goal.
"We have to learn how to hold on to these leads and play with a lot of composure," Islanders defenseman Andy MacDonald said after Saturday's practice.
While New York got some much-needed practice time to try to address some of its weak spots, the Devils are right back to work following Saturday's 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh.
New Jersey has surrendered 15 goals during its four-game skid after allowing a total of three during a 3-0 start, which included a 2-1 road victory over the Islanders on opening night.
"If you're going to play the way we did (Saturday), you might as well get beat 5- or 6-1 rather than 2-1 and fool yourself. It's a good lesson for us," said coach Peter DeBoer, whose club hasn't lost five in a row since a six-game slide Dec. 17-29, 2010. "We've only lost one game in regulation but we have to get back to work here."
Brodeur has more career wins (50) versus New York than any other team, but after surrendering five goals in back-to back games, Johan Hedberg is expected to make his second start of the year.
Hedberg hasn't faced the Islanders since last season, when he won all three starts against them while recording a 0.67 goals-against average with a shutout. New York, though, is now ranked among the NHL's best with 3.86 goals per game.
Islanders center John Tavares has seven of his team-best 11 points in the last three games, including two goals and an assist Thursday.
Tavares has just one goal in 10 career home games against New Jersey.
Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov ended a personal four-game losing streak to the Devils on Thursday with 28 saves. He is 4-0-1 since losing to them in the season opener as New Jersey's David Clarkson and Travis Zajac scored.
New York has netted seven goals while losing five of six to New Jersey at Nassau Coliseum.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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