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Habs hope to end skid at home as Isles visit

by Mike G. Morreale /
ISLANDERS (9-12-6) at CANADIENS (12-11-7)


Last 10:
New York 4-3-3, Montreal 3-3-4

Season series:
This will be the second of four meetings this season. The Islanders scored a 4-3 victory on Nov. 17 in Uniondale, N.Y., when goalie Rick DiPietro stopped 24 of 27 shots in relief of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov. Matt Moulson's goal 18:15 into the second held up as the winner. Montreal is 12-2-4 in its last 18 meetings with New York, but the Islanders have won the last three.

Big story: Both clubs are just looking to keep pace with the rest of the conference in an attempt to qualify for the playoffs. The Canadiens are 2-2-4 in their last eight games and stand ninth in the East with 31 points. Montreal is surprisingly having greater success on the road (8-6-1) than at home (4-5-6), where it has lost their last four contests. The Islanders are 4-1-2 in their last seven and are 14th in the East with 24 points. New York is 3-5-3 away from Nassau Coliseum in 2011-12.

Team Scope:

Islanders: The Islanders suffered a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday -- their first loss in regulation since Nov. 25. David Ullstrom and Milan Jurcina scored to give the Isles a 2-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game, but the Penguins would score four of the next five goals. According to Newsday, forward Nino Niederreiter is improving after suffering a concussion on Dec. 3 following an illegal hit by Dallas' Mark Fistric. Niederreiter, who skated for the second straight day on Saturday, may be assigned to a conditioning stint with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport when he's ready for game action. Fistric was suspended three games for the hit.

"I had a little memory loss, and it was a pretty heavy hit," Niederreiter said. "I expected it to be a little worse than it has, to be honest. I feel very good right now."

Canadiens: Defenseman Tomas Kaberle made a nice impression the day after he was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Kaberle notched two assists, including one on the power-play, in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Saturday. Kaberle will no doubt be looked upon to quarterback the club's power play, which has missed the injured Andrei Markov (knee surgery). Kaberle's assist on Max Pacioretty's power-play goal 1:07 into the second period snapped a 0-for-40 skid with the man advantage for the Canadiens.

Who's hot:
Islanders left wing Matt Moulson has 8 goals and 11 points in his last seven games -- he leads the team with 14 goals, including 3 game-winners, in 2011-12.

Injury report:
The Islanders are without Niederreiter (concussion), DiPietro (groin), Nabokov (groin), Jay Pandolfo (broken foot), Andrew McDonald (right leg) and Mark Eaton (knee). … The Canadiens will be without captain Brian Gionta (lower body). Defenseman Chris Campoli (hamstring) has been cleared and could be in the lineup.

Stat pack:
Montreal rookie defensemen Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin are among the top five in blocked shots for first-year players this season -- Diaz is first with 60 blocks and Emelin is fifth with 36. Meanwhile, Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges ranks third in the league with 78 blocks and Hal Gill is 10th with 67. … Islanders left wing Matt Martin leads the NHL with 121 hits.

Puck drop:
Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who stopped a penalty shot by New Jersey's Zach Parise in the final minute of regulation to secure Saturday's victory, told reporters after the game he had a good idea what the Devils captain was going to do. Parise entered the game 6-for-7 (85.7 percent) in shootouts.

"I've watched tape of him in that situation and when he went to the backhand I was ready," Price said.

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