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TV: FS-Carolinas (HD); MSG PLUS
LAST 10: Carolina 6-1-3; New York 5-3-2
Season Series: It's the fourth and final meeting of the season, and the 'Canes are looking for their first win. The Islanders won three times in January, including a 2-1 shootout win on Jan. 21 in the Hurricanes' last visit to the Nassau Coliseum.
Big Story: Both clubs are well down in the Eastern Conference standings, but enter the night less than 10 points behind eighth-place Toronto and playing some of their best hockey of the season. Neither can afford to lose many more points.
Hurricanes: They may be doing it too late to make the playoffs, but the Hurricanes have been playing some of their best hockey of the season in the past few weeks. That includes Friday night, when they overcame a blown two-goal lead in the third period to beat San Jose 3-2 at the RBC Center. Carolina's two 19-year-olds, Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, scored in the first period and Jussi Jokinen got the win in the third after San Jose had tied the score.
"First of all, we've got a little bit of confidence," Skinner said of the team's improvement. "Obviously, the hard work is there. When you combine those two, you can string together some good games."
Islanders: The Isles can't get over the hump -- the NHL's version of the break-even mark. They got back to the .500 mark with a 3-1 win at Winnipeg on Tuesday, but were overwhelmed in St. Louis two nights later, losing 5-1 despite taking the lead with a goal 59 seconds into the game.
"I know the position I'm in. Nabby has been playing well for us. It's my job to be ready at any time," Montoya said. "Tonight is one that I want back, but the puck had eyes; it was finding its way through. It's tough that I couldn't have had a better game, but I'll look it over and put it behind me."
Who's Hot: Carolina captain Eric Staal has four goals and three assists during a seven-game points streak. Ward, who didn't start Friday due to what coach Kirk Muller called "a slight tweak," is 3-0-2 in his last five starts and has allowed just 11 goals on 172 shots.
Injury Report: In addition to Ward, the 'Canes are without forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose (upper body)and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (concussion). … The Islanders recalled goaltender Kevin Poulin from AHL Bridgeport to make the start in place of the ailing Nabokov (illness). New York is decimated on the blue line; Travis Hamonic (facial injuries), Dylan Reese (knee) and Mike Mottau (concussion) are out.
Stat Pack: Ward had been in goal for each of the Hurricanes' previous 41 wins, the longest streak in the NHL, before Justin Peters got the win against the Sharks. … The Islanders lead the NHL with 980 blocked shots. New York forward Matt Martin leads the NHL with 264 hits; he's on pace for 387, which would be a League record.
Puck Drop: Maybe the sight of a Carolina uniform will spark Isles center John Tavares. He was named player of the month for January with 22 points, including nine on the 10 non-shootout goals the Isles scored in three wins against Carolina. But since going 2-2-4 in Raleigh on Jan. 31, Tavares has managed just two assists in eight games -- a span in which the Islanders have found the back of the net just 12 times.
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