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New York Islanders @ Carolina Hurricanes

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
(Answer from 12/31: 8-8. March 3, 1981 was not a night for the goaltenders, as the Isles and Oilers combined for 16 goals and each took away a point. Wayne Gretzky had two goals and two assists and Mike Bossy had four goals in what was a shooting gallery.)

Team Record: 13-17-6
Last Game: 4-1 W vs. EDM
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 4
Team Record: 13-21-6
Last Game: 5-2 L @ TBL
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 4
John Tavares
Tied for second on the team in scoring with 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists), the Islanders alternate captain's points don't begin to tell half his story. He's become a more vocal leader on and off the ice, while he's elevated his game in all areas. He's winning more 50-50 puck battles, he's winning more faceoffs and he's playing with more confidence, which enables him to make highlight-worthy plays and goals.

"He’s only 21-years-old, so you knew that once he became acclimated with the league, he was going to get better and better," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. "He works hard on his game. He wants to be an All-Star. He wants to be the best and he wants to help his team get into the post season. So it’s not surprising to me, where he’s come and where he’s going."

Tavares' scoring through the first 36 games is just about equal to what he scored at the midway point last season (14 goals, 14 assists). However, the Isles center looks as if he's about to break out.
Eric Staal
Eric Staal seemed to have refound his game in the two games prior to the New Year. The Carolina forward scored two goals and three assists for five points when he had been held scoreless in the team's previous six games. Those points pushed Staal to the top of the team scoring charts (25 points) over sophomore forward Jeff Skinner, who has been sidelined with a concussion since Dec. 8.

Tuomo Ruutu
With Skinner out of the lineup, scoring hasn't come easy for the Canes. However, Ruutu has stepped up, scoring four goals in the last six games, including the overtime goal against the Ottawa Senators. His 14 goals in 40 games are already within five of his 19 goal total from last season and are more than double his career-high mark (26 goals).
Earning two straight wins prior to the New Year to overtake the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference standings, the Islanders look to match their longest win streak of the season on Tuesday.

"There are a few little things that we adjusted to, whether it’s faceoff assignments or neutral zone forecheck," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. "The fact that we focused and attention to detail. That’s step one."

He continued, "Step two, we got the puck North. We didn’t play an East-West game. When we didn’t have pucks at the blue lines, we chipped pucks in and we won the territorial battle. That’s what we have to keep pounding on these guys. That’s our formula for success."

However, the Islanders will have their work cut out for them; the Hurricanes swept the four-game series last season, outscoring the Islanders 18-8. Meanwhile, the Canes have won three of their last five games and all of the wins have been at home.

Though the Isles lost their last two road games, both to the Eastern Conference leading Rangers, the Islanders are working off the momentum and confidence of a two-game win streak, which they hope to carry onto the road.
Although they're at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes don't look anything like a last-place team when they face the New York Islanders.

The bottom two teams in the East meet Tuesday night at RBC Center with the Hurricanes looking to continue their dominance in this series.

Carolina (13-21-6) has been better since Kirk Muller replaced the fired Paul Maurice on Nov. 28, guiding the team to a 5-4-2 mark after the Hurricanes lost their first four games following the coaching change. (Continue Reading)

On April 2 of last season, the Hurricanes defeated the Islanders 4-2 to win the season series 4-0. Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen scored first, but the Islanders responded with two goals (Jesse Joensuu and John Tavares) to take the 2-1 lead. However, the Canes would score three unanswered goals (Joe Corvo, Erik Cole and Eric Staal) in the third period to bring the score to its final margin.
Date of
DiPietro 12/03 Groin strain 12 out indef. (IR)
Katic 9/24 Shoulder 36 out indef. (IR)
Montoya 12/20 Concussion 5 No timetable
Pandolfo 11/26 Broken foot 15 4-6 weeks (IR)
Ullstrom 12/20 Concussion 5 No timetable (IR)
Power Play %: 18.5%
Penalty Kill %: 82.2%
Home Record: 8-9-3
Road Record: 5-8-3
Goals For: 84
Goals Against: 113
Power Play %: 13.7%
Penalty Kill %: 79.4%
Home Record: 9-10-2
Road Record: 4-11-4
Goals For: 103
Goals Against: 135
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said the lineup would remain the same, including Evgeni Nabokov, who gets his sixth straight start.

Hurricanes (Expected) Lineups
Forwards: Tlusty-Staal-Dalpe, Ponikarovsky-Jokinen-Ruutu, Bowman-Sutter-LaRose, Nodl-Brent-Stewart

Gleason-McBain, Harrison-Faulk, Spacek-Allen

Ward, Peters

Expected scratches:
Pitkanen, Dwyer, Joslin

Islanders assistant captain John Tavares: "That game after Christmas against the Rangers was disappointing for us, the way things went and the way we played. We had a couple good, hard days of practice and we challenged ourselves as players and the coaches challenged us as well, telling us that we need to be better on a more consistent basis. (Those two wins were) definitely a good way to finish out the week and the year, but we have to understand that we need more of that and it has to be there each and every night."

Cory Wright contributed to this report
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