After improving by 18 points last season, the New York Islanders hoped to continue that upward trend in 2010-11. Instead, they may have played themselves out of playoff contention before Christmas.
The league-worst Islanders look to win for only the second time in 19 games and end a 10-game road losing streak Thursday night against the Boston Bruins.
As expected, the Islanders missed the playoffs for the third straight season in 2009-10 but jumping from a league-low 61 points to 79 offered optimism for the future. However, only minimal offseason changes and injures to standout defenseman Mark Streit and top-line forward Kyle Okposo have left New York (5-15-5) at the bottom of the league's overall standings, a whopping 18 points behind the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Scott Gordon was replaced as coach by Jack Capuano on Nov. 15 with the team in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, but the Islanders haven't been any better since the change, going 1-5-2 under Capuano.
New York is 1-14-3 in its past 18 games, with the lone win coming against New Jersey on Nov. 26. The Islanders are 0-8-2 on the road since beating Tampa Bay on Oct. 21.
Two goals in a 36-second span of the third period gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead over Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Flyers answered with two goals later in the period and held on for a 3-2 win.
Dwayne Roloson made 24 saves for New York, which has scored two goals or fewer in 14 of 16 games and is scoreless in 36 power-play chances over the last 11.
"We have to find a way to win," Capuano said. "Roli played well and he gave us a chance to win. We just didn't take advantage of that."
Roloson is 0-10-1 in his last 11 starts despite a solid 2.74 goals-against average during that span. Rick DiPietro is 1-4-2 with a 4.13 GAA in his past seven starts.
Either goaltender figures to have a difficult time beating the Bruins, who are 8-1-1 in the past 10 meetings with the Islanders. Boston had won six straight at home in the series before New York's 4-1 victory Nov. 16, 2009.
Boston (15-8-3) had to wait until Mark Recchi's overtime goal was reviewed and allowed to stand before officially beating Buffalo 3-2 on Tuesday night. Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton also scored for the Bruins, 3-0-1 in their last four.
"It was a big win and we've got another big week this week," Recchi told the team's official website. "The Islanders come in Thursday and we're going to have to be a lot sharper than we were tonight."
Tim Thomas had another strong performance for Boston, stopping 28 shots to improve to 14-2-2 while his league-best GAA increased slightly to 1.49. Thomas is 6-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA in his last seven starts against the Islanders.
Lucic's goal was his team-leading 13th and third in four games. He had nine goals in 50 games last season during an injury-plagued campaign.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.