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Canadiens host Islanders in playoff tuneup

by Brian Compton

ISLANDERS (31-37-11) at CANADIENS (45-27-8)


Last 10: New York 5-3-2; Montreal 7-2-1

Season series: This is the third and final game between the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens are going for a sweep; in the most-recent game, they beat the Islanders 1-0 on an overtime goal by Max Pacioretty at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 14.

Big story: Montreal was assured of a first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night. Now, the Canadiens are trying to secure home-ice advantage. They are three points ahead of the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay, which hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, has a game in hand.

Islanders: New York, which will not be in the playoffs, is playing out the string with nearly a dozen rookies in its lineup. The Islanders closed out the home portion of their schedule Tuesday night, when they sustained a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

One of the rookies in New York's lineup is center Ryan Strome, who was the fifth pick at the 2011 NHL Draft. On Wednesday, Strome was named to the American Hockey League's All-Rookie Team after scoring nine goals and 24 assists in 37 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The Islanders are 17-11-5 with Strome in the lineup this season.

Canadiens: Montreal was less than a minute away from picking up two points Wednesday night, but saw its 2-1 lead erased at 19:12 of the third period en route to a 3-2 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

Dale Weise and Francis Bouillon scored for the Canadiens, who were guaranteed to face the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs when the Detroit Red Wings lost in a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I thought the guys competed hard. We did a lot of good things out there," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We lost focus a couple of shifts where we made some mistakes and lost some coverage, and that's the difference. That just shows how quick a game can turn."

The question facing the Canadiens now is, will they have left wing Alex Galchenyuk when the playoffs begin? The top-six forward left the game Wednesday after two shifts in the first period due a lower-body injury, and he reportedly was spotted leaving United Center on crutches.

Goaltender Carey Price and defensemen Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov did not make the trip to Chicago. They were resting before the start of the postseason.

Who's hot: Islanders center Frans Nielsen scored his 25th goal Tuesday. He has two goals in the past three games. … Canadiens left wing Thomas Vanek has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past seven games. Center David Desharnais has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his past seven.

Injury report: New York will be without forwards John Tavares (knee), Kyle Okposo (lower body) and defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (hand). Forwards Michael Grabner (upper body) and Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) and defenseman Calvin de Haan (lower body) are out. … Montreal will be without forwards Galchenyuk, Travis Moen (concussion), Brandon Prust (upper body) and center Lars Eller (flu).

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