Avalanche, Islanders look to keep good times rolling
NEW YORK -- A pair of teams looking to continue rewriting the narratives they endured last season will meet Sunday night, when the New York Islanders host the Colorado Avalanche at Barclays Center.
The Avalanche will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set after earning a 5-4 shootout win over the host Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. The Islanders are returning home after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
The win Saturday was the third in a row for the Avalanche (8-5-0), who are already one-third of the way to their point total from last season. But Colorado also got off to a decent start last year, when it was 9-9-0 through Nov. 21 before going 13-47-4 the rest of the way on the way to compiling the fewest points in the NHL since the expansion Atlanta Thrashers finished with 39 points during the 1999-2000 season.
But the Avalanche are bursting with positive momentum after moving three games over .500 for the first time since March 2016.
"Last year was tough," Colorado center Carl Soderberg told the Denver Post. "We'd start to lose and then we'd lose our way. It was really tough to get out of it. Now, we're above .500, so you get a little confident and it's easier to play."
The loss Thursday was just the second in the last seven games for the Islanders (7-5-1), who are off to a far better start than last season, when they had the fewest points in the NHL at the end of Thanksgiving weekend before going 35-19-8 the rest of the way and missing the playoffs by one point.
"You go through swings like this throughout the season," Islanders center Josh Bailey told Newsday, "When you get hot, you just want to ride it as long as you can."
Bailey and John Tavares are hoping their respective hot streaks continue.
Bailey has two goals and 12 assists during an eight-game points streak, giving him 16 points so far.
Tavares scored his 10th goal Thursday. All of his goals to go along with four assists are in his last six games.
A pair of backup goalies are likely to start in net Sunday.
Jonathan Bernier is expected to start for the Avalanche after Semyon Varlamov made 33 saves in Saturday's victory. Bernier last started on Oct. 28, when he stopped 39 shots in Colorado's 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jaroslav Halak has made the last three starts for the Islanders but made just 15 saves Thursday, which should create an opportunity for Thomas Greiss, who hasn't started since he made 27 saves in a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 26.
Bernier is 3-3-3 in nine career games against the Islanders. Greiss is 5-2-1 in eight appearances against the Avalanche.
Both teams are hoping to be at or near full strength, health-wise.
Avalanche center Rocco Grimaldi and left winger Matt Nieto are day-to-day after missing Saturday's game due to illness. Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech was scratched Thursday due to an upper body injury but skated Friday and is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday.
The Islanders went 5-1-0 last season against visiting Western teams playing the second game of a back-to-back set.
Updated November 5, 2017