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ISLANDERS (4-5-3) at SENATORS (4-6-2)
TV: MSG PLUS, SNET-E
Last 10: New York 3-5-2; Ottawa 3-6-1
Season series: They'll meet this one time and not again until a home-and-home the first week in April. The Ottawa Senators went 2-0-1 against the New York Islanders last season and are 5-0-3 in the past eight games between the teams.
Big story: Each team finds itself in similar straits, taking a solid step forward only to suffer frustrating setbacks. The Islanders' road win against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday was their most emotional victory of the season, but home losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers undid any benefits from that game. The Senators scored a season-high six goals against the Detroit Red Wings last Wednesday, but three straight losses since then make that 6-1 road win a distant memory.
Islanders: Coach Jack Capuano said it Tuesday night and general manager Garth Snow acted on it over the weekend by acquiring Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres: The Islanders need to change things up to stave off stagnation.
So after Tuesday's teeth-grinding 3-2 loss to the Rangers, Capuano loosened things up in practice Wednesday.
"You have to stay positive," Capuano told Newsday in light of his team's 2-4-2 stretch. "These guys know what we need to be doing and they have to stick with it. There's no time for panic or being overly critical. They know."
Senators: After blowing a 4-3 second-intermission lead Tuesday night in a 6-5 loss to the host Chicago Blackhawks, coach Paul MacLean experimented with various combinations among forwards and defensemen at practice Thursday, particularly at the blue line.
"We haven't tried the ones that we had today," MacLean told the Senators website. "We're trying to find a way to play better, we haven't played a consistent -- the game in Detroit we were pretty good, the Edmonton game was a good 60 minutes, in Chicago for 30 minutes we got them at 4-2 but then we don't end up winning the game. I don't think we can just keep doing the same thing and expect to get better results. We have to try to make some changes and find some combinations at forward and defense that are going to work for us. That's all we're trying to do is find a way to give our team the best chance to win."
Who's hot: Ottawa's penalty-killers lead the NHL in success at home at 95.2 percent; the Islanders' power play is at 12.5 percent (1-for-8) on the road. ... Islanders center Frans Nielsen's four-game goal-scoring streak was stopped Tuesday, but he has seven points in his past five games. Kyle Okposo had a five-game point streak stopped, but that's the second time in 10 games he's been held off the board. ... Senators captain Jason Spezza leads the team with 12 points in 11 games, including four in Ottawa's past four games. Kyle Turris has five points in his past four games.
Injury report: Defenseman Brian Strait (upper body) has missed New York's past two games and is questionable for Friday. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) remains on injured reserve. … The Senators enter Friday injury-free.
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