|NYI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|FLA||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
The Florida Panthers have been one of the best teams in the NHL since the beginning of January, jumping from the bottom of the Eastern Conference into playoff position.
The New York Islanders may have waited too long to make a similar move.
Nonetheless, New York will look for its fifth straight win on Thursday night when it travels to the BankAtlantic Center to face the Panthers, who have dropped their last two games to the league-worst Islanders.
Florida (24-18-8) was four points out of the East's eighth and final playoff spot at the end of December, and dropped four straight to close the month, giving them a 16-6-5 record.
The Panthers have been on fire since the calendar turned to January, however, going 8-2-3. That included an impressive comeback on Tuesday. Florida trailed 3-1 at Toronto after two periods, but scored twice in the third before former Maple Leaf Bryan McCabe's overtime goal won it 4-3.
With the win, the Panthers moved into eighth place in the East as they attempt to make their first postseason appearance in 12 years.
"We've shown all year we play right to the buzzer," coach Peter DeBoer told the team's official Web site. "We're not a team to pack it in when we're behind.
"We've shown a lot of character and resiliency. They believe in that room they can come back."
Florida's lone loss in its past four games came at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday to the Islanders (16-29-5), who got goals from Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin and Kyle Okposo in a 3-1 victory that gave New York a third straight victory.
The Islanders followed that up with another 3-1 win on Tuesday, scoring three time in a 3:25 span of the second period to beat Tampa Bay at home.
New York is 19 points behind the Panthers, but is still optimistic considering the four-game winning streak is its longest since a six-game run from Feb. 12-21.
"We have four wins in a row because of the way we're going about things now," coach Scott Gordon told the Islanders' official Web site. "We'll stay with that until we need to change it up."
The biggest part of New York's recent resurgence has been goaltender Yann Danis. With Rick DiPietro and Joey MacDonald injured, Danis has become the Islanders' top netminder by default, but he's looked great lately.
Danis has allowed just a goal in three of the four wins during the streak, and it's not like he hasn't been tested - he has a .952 save percentage, facing an average of 36.3 shots.
"We're having fun right now," said Guerin, who leads New York with 15 goals. "We've got some guys back in the lineup and Yann has really found his game. We're going with it."
Guerin had an assist in the Islanders' 4-2 victory over Florida on Dec. 31, then scored a goal in Saturday's 3-1 win on Long Island. Comrie also had a goal for New York in that win. He's scored three of his seven goals this season versus Florida.
Five Panthers have scored five goals apiece since the beginning of January, including David Booth, who has a team-leading 20 this season. Booth, however, has missed Florida's last two games with the flu.
He and goaltender Tomas Vokoun, also suffering from the flu, are questionable for Thursday's game.
|Feb 05 '09||NYI 2 at FLA 3||R. Zednik|
|Jan 31 '09||FLA 1 at NYI 3||B. Guerin|
|Dec 31 '08||FLA 2 at NYI 4||S. Bergenheim|
|Oct 18 '08||NYI 0 at FLA 2||N. Boynton|