The Islanders briefly mingled with the teams at the top of the Atlantic Division after beating the Devils a week ago, the 5-4 overtime win in Newark capping a 3-1-1 road trip and a 4-2-1 start.

Just seven days later the Islanders are facing the possibility of dropping into the division basement if they lost to the Rangers in regulation Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

A few things would have to happen for that to materialize, including the Flyers taking two points off the Panthers in Philadelphia, but regardless, the Islanders can ill afford a three-game losing streak.

"We're desperate, we've lost two in a row so we have to understand that we have to be desperate," John Tavares said. "Against the Rangers, it's an emotional game, no matter what else is going on."

The Islanders have been inconsistent. They won games on their road trip buoyed by superb special-teams play, but they let games in Boston and Winnipeg slip away late with some shoddy even-strength work.

In losses to the Devils and Penguins at home, the Isles' special-teams work betrayed them, going 0-for-14 on the power play but doing enough solid work at five-on-five to earn those 14 power plays in the first place. The Islanders also surrendered power-play goals in both games after allowing one in the first seven games.

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"We have to score on the power play," Mark Streit said. "We have five great players on the ice and we need to be better."

Notes & quotes: Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky arrived in the U.S. last night and was due to take a physical Thursday. He will join the team for practice Friday and could play Saturday against the Sabres at the Coliseum . . . Forward Josh Bailey (knee) won't be activated for Thursday night's game but should be ready for Saturday.