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At the Rink: Jets at Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders are hoping a week of rest and practice helps No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak rediscover his game.

Halak will be in goal for the Islanders when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. Halak hasn't played for a week; he was pulled last Tuesday after allowing five goals in two periods of a 5-2 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Chad Johnson finished that game and went all the way in the next two, a 3-2 road victory against the Boston Bruins and a 7-5 scorefest against the Dallas Stars at the Coliseum on Saturday.

"He's had a great week," coach Jack Capuano said of Halak, who is 3-2-0 with a 3.38 goals-against average and a save percentage of .891. "He has a great attitude, real positive. He's been out there early every day and staying late after practice. He's had a good week of practice, and we expect a solid game from him tonight."

Halak's early numbers are far below his career figures (2.39 GAA, .917 save percentage), but captain John Tavares said his presence in goal has helped build confidence for a team that's off to a 6-2-0 start, its best since 2001-02.

"Jaro's been around for a while; he's not an old guy, but he's been around and has proved a lot at this level on a consistent basis," Tavares said. "You just know Jaro is going to make the saves he needs to make. He's been huge for us."

Halak has won both of his career decisions against the Jets; he has a 1.92 GAA and a save percentage of .933.

The Islanders have thrived by putting the puck in the net; their 31 non-shootout goals are tops in the NHL. For the Jets to win, they'll have to play with the same kind of defensive effort they showed Sunday in a 2-1 overtime win at home against the Colorado Avalanche.

"I think it's important to build on the game against Colorado," captain Andrew Ladd said after the morning skate. "It was probably our most complete game of the year, and there are a lot of good things that can come from that. You get a chance to see exactly what it looks like and what it feels like to play that kind of hockey. We're looking to go on a little bit of a run here, and this is a good road trip to try to do that."

The Jets are playing the opener of a four-game trip, but they'll do a little less traveling than usual; they stay in the New York metropolitan area to play the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday before getting on a plane to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

"We'll spend very little time in airports. I agree with that," coach Paul Maurice said with a laugh when asked if this would be an easy road trip. "It's a change for us. We're so used to getting off the plane at two o'clock every morning. We seem to have a little more down time on this trip; maybe that's a good thing. I'm not sure."

Maurice said defenseman Zach Bogosian won't play because of an upper-body injury sustained Sunday against Colorado.

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Dustin Byfuglien

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

TJ Galiardi - Adam Lowry - Michael Frolik

Chris Thorburn - Jim Slater - Matt Halischuk

Toby EnstromPaul Postma

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Grant ClitsomeAdam Pardy

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Patrice Cormier

Injured: Evander Kane (knee), Anthony Peluso (upper body), Zach Bogosian (upper body)


Cory ConacherJohn TavaresKyle Okposo

Mikhail GrabovskiFrans NielsenNikolay Kulemin

Anders LeeBrock NelsonRyan Strome

Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

Calvin de HaanBrian Strait

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Eric Boulton, Matt Donovan

Injured: Josh Bailey (hand), Michael Grabner (lower body), Travis Hamonic (upper body), Matt Carkner (back)

Status report: Kane is skating but is still not cleared for contact at practice. Maurice said Bogosian is day-to-day. … Capuano said Hamonic is close to returning and should be able to play on a five-game road trip that begins Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. He and Bailey will make the trip.

Who's hot: Little had the overtime goal that beat Colorado and leads the Jets with five goals. … Nielsen is coming off his first NHL hat trick in the win against Dallas and was named the Third Star of the Week. Nielsen and linemates Kulemin and Grabovski combined for seven points against the Stars, and Kulemin had his first goal as an Islander when he scored shorthanded late in the first period.

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