While the New York Islanders are occupying a familiar spot near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, few figured the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins would be off to a similar start.
If their latest game is any indication, the Bruins might be ready to prove that slow beginning was merely a fluke.
Coming off their most dominant performance thus far, the Bruins seek their ninth win in their last 10 home matchups against the Islanders when the teams meet Monday night.
Boston (5-7-0) and New York (4-5-2) are tied with the fewest points in the conference, though each is coming off an impressive victory.
The Bruins routed Toronto 7-0 on Saturday for their second straight win following a three-game losing streak, as Tyler Seguin recorded his first career hat trick - each assisted by Patrice Bergeron - to give him team highs of seven goals and 14 points.
"It was nice to see us play a full 60 (minutes)," Seguin said. "Our line was clicking and I was just fortunate enough to finish the plays off."
Tim Thomas made 25 saves for his first shutout, lowering his goals-against average to 2.00.
"We've got to build off this," said Thomas, who is 7-1-1 with a 1.78 GAA in his last nine starts against the Islanders. "We have another game Monday and we've got to focus on that one and get a win and start letting them add up."
Thomas has won his last five home starts with a 1.58 GAA against New York, which is coming off an impressive victory of its own.
The Islanders ended a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) with a 5-3 victory over Southeast Division-leading Washington on Saturday. P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen each had a goal and two assists, while John Tavares scored his team-leading eighth goal.
"It was a relief for the guys," coach Jack Capuano said. "We believe in one another. It was a good win. Everybody's giving more."
Capuano juggled his lines in order to spark an offense that ranks last in the NHL with 23 goals, as the new line of Parenteau, Nielsen and Brian Rolston each had a goal and finished a combined plus-nine.
Parenteau had gone scoreless in his last four games.
"Line changes worked out," Parenteau said. "We were struggling to find goals and we found them. We were doing the little things and got rewarded."
Rick DiPietro made 25 saves for his first victory since beating Florida in a shootout March 19, a stretch of seven appearances. It is unclear who will start in net Monday, as Evgeni Nabokov is apparently recovered from a lower-body injury.
DiPietro has lost his last four starts with a 3.29 GAA versus Boston, while Nabokov is 2-1-1 with a 1.72 GAA in his last four in the series.
Whoever gets the call will be facing a Bruins team that has scored 12 goals in its last two games and is 11-2-1 in the last 14 meetings with New York.
Milan Lucic has scored in three straight contests after a two-goal, one-assist performance Saturday. He had three goals and two assists in four games against the Islanders last season.
Thomas and DiPietro each made 30 saves in Boston's 3-2 victory April 6.