First-place Islanders aim for season sweep of 'Canes

( - The New York Islanders look to maintain their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and record a season series sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday evening as the two clubs square off on Long Island.

The Islanders moved two points up on the New York Rangers in the division with last night's 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. The Isles, though, have played three more games than the Rangers, who are also in action on Saturday.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are five points behind the Islanders as well and are idle on Saturday.

Jaroslav Halak set an Islanders single-season record by picking up his 33rd victory of the season on Friday night. He made 26 saves on 27 shots faced to take sole possession of the mark he had shared with Billy Smith (1981-82), Chris Osgood (2001-02) and Rick DiPietro (2006-07).

Halak nearly set the mark by way of a shutout, but Calgary scored with 20.9 seconds to play. One of his key saves came in the first period when he stopped the Flames' Michael Ferland on a penalty shot attempt.

"It feels good, but I wasn't chasing any records," said Halak afterward. "I was just trying to win the game and we got it done. Every time we win it's a team effort. Obviously (my teammates) deserve a lot of credit for it, too."

The Flames' goal came not long after Cal Clutterbuck scored into an empty-net for what ended up being the deciding goal. Ryan Strome scored a first-period power-play tally for the Isles and John Tavares picked up an assist to give him five goals and 13 points over his last eight games.

New York has won two straight, four of six and eight of its last 11 games.

Halak may have time to reflect on his accomplishment today as there is a good chance backup Chad Johnson starts against the Hurricanes. Halak would get some deserved rest and Johnson would get a chance to beat Carolina for the fifth time in as many meetings, having posted a 1.74 goals against average and .940 save percentage in the four previous encounters.

The Hurricanes visit looking for a third straight victory as they blanked the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Friday night. Anton Khudobin made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career.

Brett Bellemore, Jeff Skinner and Nathan Gerbe all scored for the Hurricanes, who have won three of their last four games. Skinner has scored in three straight games with a goal in six of his past eight as well.

Khudobin got the start over Cam Ward, who had appeared in his 500th NHL game on Tuesday in a win over Philadelphia. Ward was honored for that milestone prior to the game before Khudobin went out and kept the Capitals off the scoreboard.

"I had to save whatever came close to me," said Khudobin. "I was seeing the puck better."

Ward figures to appear in his 501st game today and is 17-4-3 in his career versus the Islanders with a 2.62 GAA and .913 save percentage. However, he was blitzed for five goals on 26 shots faced to lose his only start against them this season.

The Hurricanes, in fact, have lost all three of their meetings with the Islanders this season as New York looks to sweep the four-game set for the first time since 2011-12.

The Islanders have won five in a row versus the 'Canes overall and snapped a four-game slide at home to Carolina with a 4-3 win on Oct. 11.

Tavares has two goals and five assists in the three meetings this season, while teammate Brock Nelson had four goals and three helpers.