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The New York Rangers are still atop the Atlantic Division, but their lead is shrinking.
Already mired in their longest losing streak of the season, the Rangers try to avoid a fourth straight loss Monday when they host a New York Islanders team suddenly showing signs of life.
The Rangers (22-13-3) led the Atlantic by six points following a win over Los Angeles on Dec. 17, but have gone 0-2-1 since, allowing second-place Philadelphia to pull within two points. They lost 4-2 at home to New Jersey on Saturday.
"We've had something creep into our game, and that's a lack of commitment to the detail of playing," coach Tom Renney said. "We end up cheating because we're not a high-scoring team. Until we get our heads around winning 2-1, we're going to have nights like this all the time."
Problems on special teams are hurting the Rangers, who have allowed five power-play goals during their losing streak after going 29-for-30 on the penalty kill in their previous eight games.
"It's the same thing that's been bugging us all year - 60 minutes," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "We had spurts of it (Saturday). We got momentum. Then we took a penalty to get out of the momentum."
Drury has just two goals in his last 16 games, but scored twice in the Rangers' 4-2 win over the Islanders on Oct. 27 at Nassau Coliseum. In the only other meeting between these teams this season, the Islanders won 2-1 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. The Rangers have lost their last three home games against the Islanders, and are 2-6-2 against them at Madison Square Garden since April 11, 2006.
The Islanders, though, have lost nine straight games away from Nassau Coliseum since a 4-3 shootout win at Montreal on Nov. 24.
After snapping a 10-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over Toronto on Friday, the Islanders rallied to pick up another point at home Saturday in a 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo. Trailing 3-1, the Isles got goals from Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli in the final two minutes - Campoli's came with two seconds left in regulation - to force overtime.
"When you're causing a lot of plays in front of the net, anything can happen," Comrie said. "We can build on this, and can focus on taking the positives out."
The Islanders (11-21-4) expect to have All-Star goaltender Rick DiPietro back in net Monday after he was scratched Saturday.
DiPietro, who missed two months after his second knee surgery in five months, returned to the ice Friday and stopped 28 shots in the win over the Maple Leafs. He hasn't started against the Rangers since a 4-2 loss on Nov. 29, 2007, but has won eight of his last 12 decisions against them.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 3-1-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average in his last five starts versus the Islanders. Despite making 31 saves Saturday, he suffered his sixth loss in eight starts overall, with a 3.96 GAA and .869 save percentage in that stretch.