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Losing streak is over, but Islanders still have a lot of room for improvement

Islanders' Andrew MacDonald collides with San Jose Sharks'

Islanders' Andrew MacDonald collides with San Jose Sharks' Justin Braun during the second period. (Dec. 10, 2013) Credit: AP

PHOENIX - The Islanders were able to smile after a game for the first time in a long time on Tuesday.

Once the relief wore off from the 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks in San Jose -- a win that snapped a 10-game winless streak and a 10-game road losing streak -- there were plenty of reminders that the Islanders aren't out of the woods yet.

"We still need to be better in a lot of areas," John Tavares said. "There's a lot of games left, but we can't forget the position we put ourselves in the last three weeks."

A combination of Tavares' will and Kevin Poulin's acrobatics allowed the Islanders to escape San Jose with two points, but that doesn't seem to be a prescription for long-term health. The Islanders still have scoring woes, having produced just 18 goals in the last 11 games, 10 of them from the Tavares-Thomas Vanek-Kyle Okposo line.

And at the other end, there would only have been an 11th straight road loss without Poulin, who withstood a first-period onslaught to keep the game scoreless and made 46 saves overall. The Sharks had 95 shot attempts in the game, by far the most the Islanders have allowed this season.

To turn the tide offensively, the Islanders will have a new face in the lineup Thursday night. Ryan Strome will make his NHL debut against the Coyotes here in the hopes of jarring some life into the lines behind Tavares'.

"We can't be a one-line team," Jack Capuano said after Monday's loss in Anaheim -- and he's also said that after a few other losses.

The goal droughts continued for regulars Michael Grabner (no goals in 28 games), Josh Bailey (no goals in 20) and Frans Nielsen (no goals in 10).

The Islanders held an opponent to two goals for the first time in 13 games, but that was Poulin's doing, with by far the best goaltending performance the Islanders have had this season.

"He stole us that game," Okposo said. "He kept us in it and made those big saves. That's something we haven't had."

And something the Islanders need more of before they can start feeling good about themselves. Evgeni Nabokov is close to a return, as is Brian Strait. The defenseman may help shore up the ragtag blue line, which has been thin and overworked this past month.

"It's time for us to turn this around," Okposo said. "We've worked hard, but not hard enough. It's time to hunker down."

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