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Isles in badly timed slump

NEW YORK — Just two weeks ago, the Islanders were rolling right along.

They won six of seven on their longest road trip of the season and got a win in their first home game in nearly three weeks.

Now, a rough stretch at possibly the worst time with the regular season winding down has put the Islanders' postseason chances in jeopardy.

After briefly moving up to second place in the Metropolitan Division, New York is just 1-4-2 in its past seven games and has dropped to fourth place.

The Islanders still hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, but Detroit and Philadelphia are just two points back.

"It's frustrating a little bit," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "Obviously it's an important time of year and we're not playing our best. The main thing is that we stay positive and stay together."

The Islanders just came off a period in which they played 12 of 14 games on the road, finishing 8-4-2 after the sizzling start.

Now, after another loss, New York has 11 games left — including seven at home, where it is 21-9-4.

"We have to find a way to pull ourselves out of it," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "We got to come together as a team and just bring it, play better. Right now we're pretty inconsistent, kind of good shift, bad shift. We don't really turn the tide and that's what we need this time of year."

Coach Jack Capuano doesn't think the team's lack of success is because of a lack of effort, but rather because some players are just struggling.

"You can't look at the team and say, 'Is there urgency?' There's a lot of guys playing with a lot of urgency," he said. "You got other guys that are struggling, so it might look like they're not playing with urgency.

"You can't have four or five guys struggling with their game at this time of year if you're going to be successful. We're a type of team, I've said this from Day 1, we're built a certain way, we need all 20 guys going. … You just hope some of the guys that are struggling now can find their way here in the last few games that we have."

While winning seven of eight from Feb. 19 through March 8, the Islanders had a 23-15 scoring edge against opponents. In the seven games since, they are 1-4-2 while getting outscored 22-11.

Tavares, the team leader with 26 goals and co-leader with 56 points, has no goals and just two assists in the past four games. He was quick to shoulder the blame for the team's recent poor play.

"It starts with myself and me playing a lot better and leading the way and elevating our game where we need it," he said. "Just got to keep sticking with it and believing in what we're doing and trusting within our game."

Capuano doesn't want his captain taking all the responsibility for the team's shortcomings, and instead called on the need for other players — whom he wouldn't name — to step up their play.

"He's doing the best he can right now," Capuano said, "but the supporting staff, a few of our other guys, it's non-existent right now. You're going to need the secondary guys to pick up some of our leaders here and our character guys."

The team's struggles have coincided with the absence of starting goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was injured late during a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on March 8. He is out for at least the rest of the regular season and into the start of a possible playoff appearance. Thomas Greiss, who was 18-6-3 with a 2.20 goals-against average at the time, is 1-4-1 with a 3.34 GAA since then.

Game highlights: Johan Larsson scored with 2:49 left and the visiting Sabres rallied to beat the Hurricanes 3-2. Larsson's winner came a minute after Evander Kane tied it as Buffalo earn its third win in five games.

Around the league: Blackhawks prospect Garret Ross was charged with a felony after police say he shared an image of a woman engaged in an sexual act without her consent — an offense more commonly known as "revenge porn" — according to the Chicago Tribune. Ross, 23, a fifth-round pick by the Blackhawks in 2012, has played with Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill., the past three seasons. … Avalanche scoring leaders Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon will miss the next two games with knee injuries and will be re-evaluated. … Devils forward Mike Cammalleri is out for the season with an injury to his right hand and wrist that has sidelined him since Jan. 26.

Sabres 1 0 2 3
at Hurricanes 0 1 1 2

First Period1, Buffalo, Colaiacovo 1 (Pysyk, Foligno), 12:22. PenaltiesNone.

Second Period2, Carolina, Terry 7 (Hanifin, Nash), 12:10. PenaltiesPysyk, Buf (holding stick), 5:13; Bogosian, Buf (slashing), 6:51; Staal, Car (tripping), 7:06; Slavin, Car (tripping), 8:11; Foligno, Buf (roughing), 18:33; Larsson, Buf (roughing), 18:33; Skinner, Car (slashing, roughing), 18:33.

Third Period3, Carolina, Nordstrom 10 (Staal), 13:40. 4, Buffalo, Kane 20 (R.O'Reilly, Reinhart), 16:11. 5, Buffalo, Larsson 7 (Gionta), 17:11. PenaltiesMalone, Car (unsportsmanlike conduct, cross-checking), 9:36. Shots on GoalBuffalo 8-8-9—25. Carolina 8-12-7—27. Power-play opportunitiesBuffalo 0 of 4; Carolina 0 of 2. GoaliesBuffalo, Johnson 18-15-3 (27 shots-25 saves). Carolina, Ward 20-16-9 (25-22). A12,676 (18,680). T2:30. Referees—Frederick L'Ecuyer, Dean Morton. LinesmenGreg Devorski, Ryan Galloway.

Playoff glance

The top three teams in each division get playoff berths. The two teams in each conference with the next-highest point totals get wild card berths regardless of their division. Wild card standings with points, games left (GL; fewer games played is the first tiebreaker) and regulation/overtime wins (ROW, the second tiebreaker)

East Pts GL ROW

Islanders 85 11 34

Red Wings* 83 10 34

Flyers 83 10 33

West Pts GL ROW

Predators 87 9 34

Avalanche 80 9 34

Wild* 79 9 31

Isles in badly timed slump 03/22/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 10:25pm]
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