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Canes need win over Isles to force tie for eighth

by Corey Masisak
ISLANDERS (27-33-11) at HURRICANES (32-29-10)


Last 10 --
New York 4-2-4; Carolina 4-5-1

Season series --
Carolina has won each of the first two meetings. Eric Staal has 3 goals and 5 points while Cam Ward has stopped 54 of 58 shots. Rick DiPietro has allowed 11 goals in the two games.

Big story -- The Hurricanes can pull even with eighth-place Buffalo at 76 points with a victory, though the Sabres will have two games in hand after Friday.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Islanders collected at least one point in their first seven games of March, going 4-0-3 before dropping a 6-3 decision to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Al Montoya was pulled after allowing five goals in 40 minutes against the franchise that drafted him, but he remains one of the surprising stories in the NHL this season.

DiPietro is expected to be on the roster for this contest, with Nathan Lawson being sent to Bridgeport. Montoya remains with the team. He is 7-3-3 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

"The kid's played so well and came back here with the chance to stick it to his old team," teammate Matt Moulson said after Tuesday's game. "To come out like we did in the first, it's disappointing."

Hurricanes -- Carolina needs to find some offense if the Hurricanes are going to move past Buffalo or the N.Y. Rangers into the top eight while also holding off hard-charging Toronto and New Jersey. The Hurricanes have only scored five goals in the past four games and nine in the past six contests, going 1-4-1 in that span.

The biggest culprit in Carolina's offensive outage has been the power play. The Hurricanes went six games without a goal on the man advantage before scoring once Wednesday against Toronto, and the problem was exasperated in one-goal losses to Washington (0-for-5) and Columbus (0-for-9).

"The power play has to find a way to get the puck in the net, get some confidence," coach Paul Maurice said.

Who's hot --
Blake Comeau has 5 goals in his past seven games for the Islanders. P.A. Parenteau has 3 goals and 8 points in his last six contests. Tuomo Ruutu has two of Carolina's five goals in the past four games.

Injury update -- DiPietro has not played since Feb. 2 after suffering facial fractures in a fight with Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson, but is expected to be available against Carolina. The Islanders are without defensemen Mark Streit (shoulder), Mark Eaton (hip) and Mike Mottau (hip), forwards Doug Weight (back) and Trent Hunter (knee) and goalie Kevin Poulin (knee). … Rookie defenseman Jamie McBain (shoulder) could miss the rest of the regular season for the Hurricanes.

Stat pack -- John Tavares has 50 career goals after scoring against the Rangers. The 20-year-old Tavares is the youngest player in Islanders' franchise history to reach 50 -- he got there 22 days before Bryan Trottier. ... Staal is third in Carolina/Hartford franchise with 222 career goals, and while he's sixth in even-strength goals with 129 he's one shy of Geoff Sanderson and three behind Jeff O'Neill on the club's career list, so he should be fourth in short order.

Puck drop -- Carolina will be happy to have not played Thursday night. The Hurricanes are now 6-10-1 in the second half of back-to-back games this season. They have two more back-to-backs on the schedule in their final 10 contests -- a home-and-home March 25-26 against Tampa and then March 29-30 at Washington and home against Montreal.

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