Monday, January 18, 2010

DP, Islanders on roll

The Islanders gave their fans plenty to cheer about this afternoon in the annual Martin Luther King game, defeating the Devils 4-0 at a sold out Nassau Coliseum. With Hasan likely recapping it from the Devil perspective, we're just going to assess what's gone so right lately for Scott Gordon's hot club that's now won four straight. That includes impressive victories over the Red Wings (6-0), Sabres (3-2 in shootout) and now the Devils by a 4-zip KO helping Rick DiPietro to his first shutout of the season and more "D---P" chants.

Here are today's highlights that put the eighth seeded Isles at 52 points trailing archrival Rangers by one:

-Matt Moulson scored twice for his club-leading 18th and 19th. It was his first multi-goal effort since a Dec.3 hat trick at Atlanta (21 games). After hitting a wall in mid-December, the free agent steal has three goals in the last four and six points in seven contests this month. A great sign.

-Josh Bailey notched his 12th continuing to rip it up. Over the past 10 games, the improving sophomore has 13 points (5-8-13). Since Dec.21, the 20 year-old pivot has 15 of his 25 points (12-13-25) this season. Prior, he'd gone 10 games w/o a point. The 2008 ninth overall selection is finally demonstrating why Garth Snow picked him, giving the Islanders two scoring lines.

-With an assist on Mark Streit's first period power play goal, Kyle Okposo extended to a six-game point streak (4-2-6). Since a three-point performance in a Dec.26 road win at the Rangers, the 21 year-old emerging power forward is 5-5-10 over the last 11 games. Last year, the St. Paul native struggled mightily in the first half before finishing strong. Looks like the same thing's happening. Only this time, the stakes are higher with the Islanders fighting for a playoff berth.

-With a PPG, Streit has points in four straight including three goals and two helpers. Since 12/26, the Isles' No.1 defenseman is 3-7-10, plus-eight. He's heating up at the right time.

-Saturday's hero Trent Hunter followed up with two assists in the win. His first multi-point game since Dec.3. The grinding checking wing doesn't always show up on the score sheet but always gives an honest effort leading by example.

-Andy Sutton tallied an assist and went plus-three on the day, continuing to play his best hockey.

-With a primary helper on Streit's marker, John Tavares made it two consecutive games with a point and three of the last four. Prior, the 19 year-old wiz kid was blank in seven straight. It's easy to forget that JT91 is in Year One with tons of expectations. The centerpiece of the franchise is finally snapping out of it which could bode well.

-Also getting on the score sheet was Jack Hillen, who with an assist finished plus-three. That's three assists in the last four for the second-year undrafted defenseman, who's quietly contributed a goal and 12 helpers along with a plus-eight rating in 45 games this season.

-Shootout ace Frans Nielsen added a helper and finished plus-two. The 2002 third round gem has seven points (1-6-7) this month.

-Though he didn't get much work, how about DP. His first two home games in more than a year and victorious in both while permitting only two goals on 53 shots (.962 save percentage). With 20 saves, the 28 year-old former 2000 No.1 overall pick recorded his third shutout versus the Devils and 15th career. His first SHO since Feb.21, 2008 against the Lightning. Storybook.

All this added up to a great day off the Meadowbrook for the orange and navy blue. It won't get much easier as the Islanders (22-19-8, 52 Pts) pay a visit to Mellon Arena and the Penguins Tuesday night where they'll go for five in a row.

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