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Danis wins behind support from unlikely sources

by Brian Hunter
It's getting hard to say who will be in the lineup for the New York Islanders on a given night. As long as Yann Danis is starting in goal, though, the chances for a victory have been pretty good.

Danis made 19 saves and Jon Sim assisted on three goals as the Islanders doubled up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Monday night at Nassau Coliseum. Danis is 3-1 and has allowed just three goals total in his last four starts. He also improved to 6-0-1 over his last seven starts at home.

New York played its second straight game without captain Bill Guerin, who could be traded prior to Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline, and was also missing the services of Trent Hunter due to a lower-leg injury. But several players who were on the ice stepped up to make an impact in their absence.

Jesse Joensuu scored in his first NHL game and defenseman Bruno Gervais snapped a 160-game goal drought that dated back to the final game of the 2005-06 season. Sim assisted on both of those tallies, as well as Dean McAmmond's that opened the scoring. Jeff Tambellini capped the offense in the third period.

"I thought it was a good effort, a great effort, for 60 minutes. Good goaltending, good defense," coach Scott Gordon said.

"We're playing 60-minute games now. The attention to detail is there that wasn't there. We'd have two good periods and one bad period. We weren't playing aggressively for 60 minutes at the beginning of the year. We weren't reading off each other, and as a result, we'd get off and the next thing you know, we're pulling pucks out of our net."

In his first trip back to Long Island since signing with Colorado in the summer of 2007, Ryan Smyth had both goals for the Avalanche, which completed a six-game road trip with five straight losses. Colorado has plummeted to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

"We haven't played well enough. We haven't played smart enough. We haven't had good starts to the game," coach Tony Granato said. "We made mistakes at this time of year that we shouldn't make."

McAmmond, acquired from Ottawa last month, picked up his fifth of the season and second in five games as an Islander with 6:45 left in the first period. Smyth then tied the score on an Avalanche power play 33 seconds into the middle period.

Less than two minutes later, Joensuu put the Islanders in front to stay. An emergency recall from Bridgeport of the AHL, he had to get to Nassau Coliseum amid the remnants of a weekend snowstorm. His debut became all the more memorable when he smacked a loose puck in front past Andrew Raycroft at the 2:31 mark.

"Making it to the NHL was already a dream," said Joensuu, who became the 93rd player this season to record his first goal. "Being able to play against guys like Ryan Smyth, and being able to play with the guys who are on this team, it's amazing. And scoring a goal, it's something that it's hard to handle and hard to think that it's true."

Gervais also might have been pinching himself to make sure he was awake after knocking in the rebound of a Sim shot with 6:56 left in the second, giving the Islanders a 3-1 lead. His last regular-season goal came on April 18, 2006. Gervais' fourth goal would turn out to be the game-winner.

Smyth, who heard boos from the crowd of 11,298 whenever he touched the puck, struck again 1:02 into the third to draw Colorado within a goal. Tambellini quickly restored the two-goal advantage at 4:48 when he ended a 14-game scoring drought.

Despite some recent success led by Danis in net, the Islanders remain 30th in the League, five points behind Atlanta. But with just under a quarter of a season still left, players like Sim have their sights set on generating some positive momentum for next season.

"Being able to play against guys like Ryan Smyth, and being able to play with the guys who are on this team, it's amazing. And scoring a goal, it's something that it's hard to handle and hard to think that it's true." -- Jesse Joensuu on his first NHL goal
"We still have 19 games left -- I'm trying to make a season out of it, and I'm just going to keep trying to play the way I've been playing," Sim said.

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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