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Game Preview: Islanders at Panthers

The Islanders meet the Panthers for the first time since last year's playoffs

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders
New York Islanders (5-7-2) at Florida Panthers (6-7-1)
7 p.m., BB&T Center
TV: MSG+2
Radio: 660AM, 101.9FM WFAN, 88.7FM WRHU

The last time the New York Islanders faced off against the Florida Panthers was an unforgettable moment for the Islanders and their fans, as John Tavares buried the double-OT winner in Game 6.

"We got a big series win, a lot of us hadn't accomplished that before, it was a long time coming for our fans as well and a great feeling," Tavares said.

Saturday marks the first time these teams will meet since that moment and their closely-contested first-round playoff series last spring. The stakes aren't much lower this time around, as the Islanders look to get back on track and climb up the standings.

"Different place today, different scenario, obviously different time of year," Tavares said. "We're trying to build some momentum and get rolling here, so it'll be a good test playing them."

The Islanders and Panthers were evenly-matched last spring, with three of the six games decided in overtime and two games in double-overtime. 

The Islanders won two of the three matchups at BB&T Center, including their last visit in Game 5 thanks to a stellar effort from Thomas Greiss (47 saves) and Alan Quine's double-OT winner. Being back in the building conjures up good feelings.

"That was probably the most memorable moment of my life," Quine said. "That [goal] kind of follows me around and I'm okay with that. It's nice to be back here." 

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm5: Quine wins game with PPG in double OT

Islanders looking to stay out of the box: 

Penalties hurt the Islanders in their 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, as they allowed a pair of power-play goals to the Bolts. 

Including Thursday night, the Islanders have allowed a power-play goal in eight straight games, a trend they're looking to buck against the Panthers on Saturday. 

"It's no secret, it's the amount of penalties we've been taking," John Tavares said after Thursday's game. "It's really putting us in a tough spot having to climb back into a lot of games." 

The best defense here is prevention. Even if the Islanders kill off their penalties, scorers like Tavares are forced to sit on the bench for extended periods when the team is shorthanded. 

"It's tough when you're in the box all night, you have the guys that aren't killing penalties sitting on the bench and it takes the bench out of rhythm," Andrew Ladd said. "We need to do a better job of staying out of the box and the rest will take care of themselves." 

Panthers With New Look on Defense: 

After winning the Atlantic Division last season, the Florida Panthers are looking to find their stride this season. The Panthers haven't recorded back-to-back wins since their first two games of the season and currently sit 6-7-1. Of course, last season the Panthers were off to a slow start before a 12-game winning streak vaulted them up the standings. 

The Panthers have made some changes since last season, notably reworking their defensive corps. Out are Brian Campbell (via free agency), Erik Gudbranson (traded to Vancouver) and Dmitry Kulikov (traded to Buffalo). In are Keith Yandle (rights traded from Rangers), Jason Demers (free agent) Mark Pysyk (Kulikov trade) and most recently, Dylan McIlrath, who was traded from the Rangers on Nov. 8.

Jonathan Marchessault leads the Panthers in goals (7) and points (13). Roberto Luongo is 4-5-0 this season with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

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