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Montréal
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47-25-10
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35-38-9

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18 SOG
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Canadiens-Islanders Preview

Tuesday, 01.15.2008 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Canadiens-Islanders Preview
Montréal Canadiens vs. New York Islanders

Christopher Higgins, the Montreal Canadiens' second-leading goal scorer, hasn't had a lot of success finding the net lately. But he's never had any problems scoring when he's faced the New York Islanders - his hometown team.

Higgins and the Canadiens look to earn a point for the eighth time in nine games as they continue a four-game road trip against the Islanders.

The Long Island native has 15 goals, trailing only Alexei Kovalev (19) for the team lead, but he's scored just two in his past 13 games.

Against New York, Higgins - born in 1983 in Smithtown, N.Y., three weeks after the Islanders won their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup - has seven goals in eight games, including four at the Nassau Coliseum.

"Good old Long Island came through for me once again," Higgins said after scoring the game-winning goal in the Canadiens' 4-1 win in New York on Nov. 21.

Though Higgins has just two goals since Dec. 15, Montreal (22-14-8) has played its best hockey of the season in the past month. The Canadiens are 8-3-3 in their last 14 contests, during which they've scored 51 goals.

They're 5-1-2 in their past eight games, and two of their three losses in that stretch have come to the New York Rangers, who beat Montreal 4-1 on Saturday.

"Our focus wasn't there, our passing was horrendous, we didn't skate with the puck, we didn't put the puck in the right place, and when the puck was there we just didn't battle for it," coach Guy Carbonneau said after his team was outshot 41-19.

The loss was the first in regulation for goaltender Cristobal Huet since he came back from a pulled groin on Dec. 20, compiling a 6-1-2 record.

The Canadiens' lone goal against the Rangers came on the power play, where they've excelled all season. Montreal is the NHL's best team with the man advantage, converting 24.6 percent of its chances.

The Canadiens scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games, going 12-for-40 (30 percent) over that stretch.

Kovalev has 11 of the Canadiens' league-leading 51 power-play goals, while Higgins has seven.

Though Kovalev has three goals and five assists in his past six contests overall, he hasn't scored a goal against the Islanders in six games.

New York (22-17-5) had started its season-high five-game road trip 0-1-2, but closed it out with back-to-back wins, the first time it's won consecutive road games since Nov. 16-19.

The Islanders beat Calgary 5-4 in a shootout on Friday, then claimed perhaps their most impressive victory of the season on Sunday, beating the Eastern Conference-leading Senators 3-1, their first win in Ottawa in nearly five years.

"It's a big win," said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who made 31 saves. "It makes an average road trip a pretty good one. We managed to win that last one and having dropped a couple of points in the first three games, it was nice to finish up the road trip with a win."

The win improved DiPietro's record to 18-14-5, but he had been just 1-1-3 with a 3.06 goals-against average since returning from a knee injury on Jan. 3. It was the first time he'd allowed fewer than two goals since a 2-1 win over Boston on Nov. 24.

DiPietro is 4-6-0 with a 2.52 GAA against the Canadiens.

While Montreal is fifth in the league in goals (134), the Islanders are tied for last (106) with New Jersey.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 15 '08NYI 0 at MTL 3R. Hamrlik
Feb 02 '08NYI 1 at MTL 4M. Streit
Jan 15 '08MTL 3 at NYI 1T. Plekanec
Nov 21 '07MTL 4 at NYI 1C. Higgins
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%