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Improved Islanders face Panthers, go for five straight

by Jon Lane

ISLANDERS (18-22-7) at PANTHERS (17-21-7)


Last 10: New York 8-2-0; Florida 4-4-2

Season series: This is the first of three games between the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers. The Islanders swept three games last season by a combined score of 12-5 and have won four straight against the Panthers.

Big story: A win against the Panthers would extend the Islanders' winning streak to five games for the first time since 2008 and match the franchise-record road winning streak of eight set in 1980-81. The surge has New York seven points out of a playoff spot with 35 games left to play.

''We're competing. We're defending a little better,'' Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. ''Playing more within the team concept. I think when you can utilize your four lines that we do, a lot of guys the minutes are distributed.''

The Panthers, 14-12-3 under coach Peter Horachek, return to BB&T Center after going 1-1-1 on their three-game road trip.

"They're a dangerous team, obviously, especially the [John] Tavares line," Horachek said following Panthers practice Monday. "Their special teams are pretty good. Their power play, especially that line, is dangerous. You're really going to have to, hopefully, keep them limited on the scoreboard."

Team Scope:

Islanders: A 4-2 come-from-behind win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday earned New York a place in NHL history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Islanders are the sixth team to win five straight road games despite trailing in each contest.

"I'd rather be on a team that gets stronger in the third than one that starts off strong and doesn't keep it going," said defenseman Calvin de Haan, whose pass set up Tavares' goal with 84 seconds left Saturday that put the Islanders ahead for good.

Panthers: Florida was 2.1 seconds from forcing a shootout Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. Instead, the Panthers' road trip ended in disappointing fashion when Marek Zidlicky scored to send them to a 2-1 loss.

"We're not playing a complete game and we need to get ourselves back there," Horachek said. "My expectations are going to go up and hopefully their expectations are going to go up. As we get better and better, we have to want more and more. You can't be satisfied."

Who's hot: Tavares was named the League's First Star of the Week with four goals and six assists. He has points in eight of his past nine games (eight goals, 10 assists). Kyle Okposo has nine goals and 16 points in his past 12 games. Brock Nelson has three goals in four games. DeHaan has a four-game point streak (one goal, five assists). Kevin Poulin is a winner of five straight games, 6-1-0 in his past seven and 4-0-0 since replacing the injured Evgeni Nabokov. Thomas Vanek has at least one point in 11 of his past 12 games. … Panthers forward Brad Boyes is 3-2-5 in his past five.

Injury report: Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (upper body) will not play and is day to day. Nabokov (quad) has resumed skating and is eligible to come off injured reserve, but will likely remain inactive for several more days, according to Newsday. Defensemen Radek Martinek (back spasms) and Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) remain on IR … Horachek hopes forward Jesse Winchester (bruised hand) will start practicing later this week and be available for the Panthers' next road trip. Defensemen Alex Petrovic (upper body), Dylan Olsen (lower body) and Matt Gilroy (lower body) are on IR.


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