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BLACKHAWKS (16-8-4) at ISLANDERS (9-11-5)
TV: CSN-CHICAGO, MSG PLUS
LAST 10: Chicago 5-4-1; New York 5-3-2
Season Series: Thursday's clash at Nassau Coliseum is a rematch -- the teams met last Friday in Chicago, with Jonathan Toews scoring the shootout winner after getting a shorthanded goal and an assist in regulation to lift the Blackhawks to a 5-4 victory at United Center.
Big Story: Chicago spoiled goaltender Al Montoya's homecoming last Friday, but that's the only blemish on the Isles' record during their last five games. New York is 4-0-1 in its last five games after whipping Tampa Bay 5-1 on Tuesday. The Hawks are coming off a 4-3 home shootout loss to Phoenix on Monday.
Blackhawks: Toews has been the driving force behind Chicago's 4-1-1 mark in its last six games -- Phoenix has beaten the Hawks twice in that span. Chicago's captain, who is tied for the League lead with 17 goals, scored twice and added an assist on Monday, but the Coyotes held off the Blackhawks in shootout for their second win in six days at United Center. The Blackhawks overcame a 3-0 deficit to earn a point when Patrick Kane tied the game with 6:03 remaining in the second period, but Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith locked down from there to seal Chicago's fate.
"We played the way we had to and found a way to get back after a slow start," Toews said. "For the second half of the game we dictated most of the play. We played better late in the game, but you get to that point where it's 3-3 [and] we're getting chances late in the third and OT. We want to find a way to get that extra point."
Islanders: Hope has been restored on Long Island as the Isles have reeled off four wins in five games (4-0-1) thanks to a thriving offense and steady performance in net. New York has scored 19 goals in its last five games, and Montoya has allowed two goals or less in five of his last six outings. John Tavares, who was locked into a 13-game scoreless drought, broke through with a goal in the first period of Tuesday's lopsided win over the Lightning.
"It's great getting chances, but it's about time I started capitalizing on them more frequently," Tavares said. "It was nice to get that one early in the game - to finally see one go in. I've got to stick with it and keep producing when I get my opportunities."
Who's Hot: Toews isn't the only streaking offensive player for Chicago; Patrick Sharp has compiled eight goals and seven assists in his last 12 games. … Isles forward Matt Moulson, who became the only NHL player this season to score four goals in a game last Saturday against Dallas, has reeled off eight goals during a five-game goal-scoring streak.
Injury Report: Michael Grabner (groin strain) is day-to-day but has not been ruled out for Thursday's game. Nino Niederreiter (concussion), Jay Pandolfo (foot), Mark Eaton (knee) and Andrew MacDonald (leg) are out, as are goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and Rick DiPietro (groin).. … Dave Bolland has been in the lineup for Chicago but continues to battle the lingering effects of his foot injury suffered on Nov. 8 against St. Louis. He participated in drills during Wednesday's practice and is expected to play on Thursday.
Stat Pack: Marian Hossa needs one goal to become the 85th player in NHL history to reach the 400-goal plateau.
Puck Drop: After allowing a goal on Tampa Bay's first shot of the game on Tuesday, Montoya responded by not allowing another shot to cross the goal line all night. Montoya credits his teammates for their resilience - the same quality that has enabled the Isles to sneak back into contention in the Eastern Conference over the last two weeks.
"We don't get down, no matter what," Montoya told Newsday. "I don't think I faced an odd-man rush all night. Hats off to our guys."