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At the Rink: Oilers-Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- There will be some missing pieces on both sides Tuesday when the Edmonton Oilers visit the New York Islanders.

The Islanders again will be without forwards Kyle Okposo, Cal Clutterbuck and Michael Grabner, as well as top-four defenseman Calvin de Haan. None of them played Sunday in a 3-2 victory at the Buffalo Sabres that wrapped a three-game road trip. Okposo will be out for several more weeks with an upper-body injury; the others are dealing with what coach Jack Capuano called "bumps and bruises, nothing serious," but won't play.

That means forwards Colin McDonald and Harry Zolnierczyk will dress for the second straight game. McDonald had the first goal against the Sabres and Capuano said he liked what he saw from each of them.

"Harry has that quickness, that speed you like and you can utilize him in different situations," he said. "Colin we know what we are going to get on that line. He crashes and bangs and plays sound positional hockey for us. I thought both of those guys threw their bodies around in that game."

The Oilers, who have split the first two games of their six-game trip, have injury problems of their own. First-line left wing Taylor Hall has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and interim coach Todd Nelson said Tuesday that an MRI revealed a new injury to the ankle that could keep Hall out of the lineup for as long as six weeks.

The Oilers placed Hall and forward Benoit Pouliot (foot) on injured reserve Tuesday, and recalled goaltender Richard Bachman and forward Ryan Hamilton from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. Bachman will dress in place of Ben Scrivens; Nelson said Scrivens tweaked his hamstring late in a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

"This is an opportunity for other guys to step up," said Nelson, whose team defeated the Islanders 5-2 in Edmonton on Jan. 4. "We're going to have to have all 20 guys going like we did last night. It starts from our goalie throughout our lineup.

"We're going to have to have a total team effort, and we're up against a very good hockey team tonight."

This is the Oilers' final visit to Nassau Coliseum, where they are 0-6-1 since a 3-2 victory Dec. 14, 1999.

The Islanders play their next four games at Nassau Coliseum, where they are 17-6-0 this season despite losing to the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers in their two home games since the All-Star break. Capuano said his players can't take the Oilers lightly despite their last-place standing in the Western Conference.

"We have to be ready to play," he said after the morning skate. "We have to make sure we play the Islanders way; do the right things at the right time, feed off the crowd and get energy in the building."

The Islanders (34-18-1) enter Tuesday in first place in the Metropolitan Division, four points ahead of the fourth-place New York Rangers who come to Nassau Coliseum next Monday. Before that, the Islanders have home games against the Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, three teams that are below .500 and all but certain to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We don't really look at who we're playing," Islanders forward Josh Bailey said. "Any team can beat anyone on any night so that doesn't really factor into it. We have to be focused on bringing our A game. And when we bring our best we find ways to win.

"At home this year we've had great support. We're looking forward to a little homestand here, and we want to start on the right foot.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who had to make eight saves in the victory at Buffalo, will start for the Islanders. Viktor Fasth is expected to be in goal for the Oilers, who had meetings but didn't skate after arriving from New Jersey.

Nelson wants to see the same kind of effort his team put out against the Devils.

"One of the things I liked about last game was we played the same way. It didn't matter what the score was," he said. "Even in a one-goal game, where we maybe we would have panicked or collapsed, we just kept on playing the same way. That's what I liked about it and that's what we have to bring tonight against the Islanders."

Here are the projected lineups:


Teddy Purcell - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Matt Fraser - Derek Roy - Nail Yakupov

Luke Gazdic - Anton Lander - Iiro Pakarinen

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Jeff Petry - Andrew Ference

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Martin Marincin - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Richard Bachman

Scratched: Keith Aulie, Ryan Hamilton

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen), Taylor Hall (left ankle), Benoit Pouliot (foot), Nikita Nikitin (shoulder), Ben Scrivens (hamstring)


Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey

Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin

Harry Zolnierczyk - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Lubomir Visnovsky - Travis Hamonic

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Matt Donovan

Injured: Calvin de Haan (facial cut), Cal Clutterbuck (upper body), Kyle Okposo (upper body), Michael Grabner (upper body), Eric Boulton (lower body)

Status report: Nelson said Hamilton could dress and take a spot on the third or fourth line but didn't say who would sit if that happens. … Clutterbuck and de Haan took part in all aspects of practice Tuesday; Grabner skated after practice. ... Capuano said there was no update on Okposo's condition.

Who's hot: Eberle had two assists against New Jersey, giving him six points in the Oilers' past five games. … Grabovski has goals in two of the Islanders' past three games after scoring seven times in his first 42. ... Lee's goal Sunday was his third in four games and 26th in 71 career games.

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