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A loss by Montreal dropped the New York Islanders out of first place in the Atlantic Division. A win over the Canadiens would help them regain it.

The Islanders, playing the middle game of their three-game homestand, look to regain control of the division Thursday when they host the Canadiens.

New York (14-10-3) fell one point behind New Jersey, which beat Montreal 2-1 in overtime Wednesday night. It was the latest the Islanders owned sole possession of first place since Dec. 14, 2001.

New York lost 4-2 to Ottawa on Tuesday night in the first game of its homestand, and has lost three of its last five after a three-game winning streak.

"We have to fight our way through this," Islanders forward Mike Sillinger said.

New York goalie Rick DiPietro is expected back in goal against the Canadians after missing Tuesday's game with what the team would only say was an undisclosed lower body injury. DiPietro, who was already slated to have the night off, didn't dress for the game or sit on the bench.

DiPietro is 2-4-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average in seven games against Montreal.

The Islanders were also without Trent Hunter, who will be out of action for two-to-four weeks with a sprained knee. The right wing, who has four goals and two assists in 26 games, was injured in the final minutes of the Islanders' 7-4 victory Sunday over the New York Rangers.

It's the second injury to a key Islanders forward in just over a week. The team lost captain and leading scorer Alexei Yashin for up to a month Nov. 25, when he sprained his right knee against Washington.

Islanders forward Jason Blake, who leads the team with 15 goals, ended a four-game goalless drought with a third-period tally against the Senators. It was his first goal since scoring two in a Nov. 25 win over Washington.

Radek Bonk scored the lone goal Wednesday for the Canadiens (15-8-4), who have lost consecutive games for the first time this season. Montreal, which is 2-3-1 in its last six games but has not won in regulation since Nov. 22, hasn't lost three straight since March 13-18.

Canadiens center Saku Koivu had at least a point in three straight games before Wednesday's defeat. He leads the team with 10 goals and 16 assists.

David Aebischer was back in goal for Montreal after Cristobal Huet started the previous four games, stopping 29 of 31 shots. He has struggled in three games against the Islanders, going 0-3-0 with a 4.78 GAA.

"Aebischer was really good ... but I was more disappointed with the way we played in overtime," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said.

Montreal has one of the league's best penalty-killing units, stopping 138 of its opponents' 154 power-play opportunities (89.6 percent). The Canadiens, though, allowed the game-winner Wednesday on a Devils power play.

Montreal went 3-1-0 against New York last season.

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