The Arizona Coyotes’ biggest task right now is handling prosperity.
That sure beats the norm for the Coyotes, who will look to maintain at least a share of the longest active winning streak in the NHL when they visit the equally hot New York Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y., on Thursday.
The Coyotes, one game into a four-game East Coast road trip, were off Wednesday after extending their winning streak on Tuesday night with a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers. The Islanders last played Saturday, when they also ran their winning streak to four games with a 3-2 overtime win over the host Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Coyotes and Islanders are two of the three NHL teams entering Thursday with a four-game winning streak. The Washington Capitals will put their streak on the line when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.
With a victory Thursday, the Coyotes would match their second-longest winning streak since 2011-12. Arizona had a six-game winning streak and a five-game streak last season, but otherwise has just one five-game streak (2013-14) in the last eight-plus campaigns.
This season’s fast start is a far more pleasant experience for the Coyotes than the disaster they endured two years ago, when Arizona opened 0-10-1 and tied the 1943-44 New York Rangers for the most consecutive losses to start a season.
Of course, success comes with its own challenges, especially for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2011-12 season — the longest drought in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have trailed just once during their losing streak: 1-0 to the Winnipeg Jets in the first period of a 4-2 win on Oct. 15.
“Maturity means handling prosperity,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said. “Yeah, we won four games in a row, everybody’s feeling good, but can we handle the success of it? That’s a key thing and moment for me and this team.
“Things are going good, but it can turn. Yeah, you can enjoy the moment, don’t get me wrong, but you’ve got to be able to handle prosperity.”
The Islanders began doing that last season, when they reached the Eastern Conference semifinals for just the second time in the last 26 seasons while allowing the fewest goals in the NHL (196) under first-year head coach Barry Trotz.
The Islanders have exhibited some resilience during their winning streak, a span in which New York has recorded two overtime victories, one shootout win and overcome a deficit three times.
“(They) bent, but we didn’t break,” Trotz said following practice Monday. “We hung in there.”
Darcy Kuemper, who has been in net three times during the Coyotes’ winning streak, is likely to draw the start for Arizona. He earned the victory Tuesday by recording 17 saves against the Rangers and is riding a team-record streak of 13 games without allowing more than two goals.
The Islanders’ goalie rotation would appear to have Semyon Varlamov in line to start Thursday. Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have alternated starts this season. Greiss earned the win last Saturday by stopping 34 shots against the Blue Jackets. Varlamov last played Oct. 17, when he recorded 32 saves in the win over the Jets.
Kuemper is 1-3-1 in six career games against the Islanders. Varlamov is 8-7-2 in 18 games against the Coyotes.
–Field Level Media