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Islanders aim for series sweep of Canadiens

by Brian Compton

CANADIENS (19-5-5) at ISLANDERS (13-13-3)


Last 10: Montreal 7-1-2; New York 5-3-2.

Season series: This is the third and final meeting. The Islanders are 2-0-0 against the Canadiens this season.

Big story: The Canadiens enter Thursday’s action just three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Isles, meanwhile, let two points slip away Tuesday and now trail the Rangers by three points for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Team scope:

Canadiens: Montreal has earned points in nine of its past 10 games and finds itself atop the Northeast Division, two points ahead of the Boston Bruins. While Montreal came up short in its last outing – a 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the Canadiens’ last regulation defeat came against the Islanders back on March 5 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a 6-3 decision.

The Canadiens trailed 2-0 heading into the third period Tuesday, but goals from Max Pacioretty and Colby Armstrong allowed Montreal to salvage a point.

"We went through the motions in the first period," coach Michel Therrien said. "We weren't at our best, that's for sure.

"But we never quit. I thought the guys worked really hard to make a comeback. [Jhonas] Enroth played really well for them. As long as the effort is there, I'm going to be satisfied."

Islanders: The inability to protect leads has been a theme on Long Island for a few years now, and Tuesday wasn’t any different. For the second straight game, the Islanders blew a multi-goal lead in the third period. Only this time, they also failed to come away with any points, allowing four goals in the final 20 minutes in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Coliseum.

“We can’t come out in the third period like that,” winger Kyle Okposo said. “We have to find ways to win hockey games. We can’t give up a goal with a minute left. We needed this one, and it hurts.”

Who’s hot: Pacioretty has a goal and two assists in the past five games. Tomas Plekanec had his four-game point streak snapped Tuesday. … Isles winger Matt Moulson has earned an assist in each of the past five games. Okposo had two assists against the Sens, giving him three points in the past two contests.

Injury report: The Canadiens are expected to be missing defensemen Raphael Diaz (concussion) and defenseman Yannick Weber (knee), left wing Rene Bourque (concussion) and left wing Brandon Prust (shoulder). … New York has been without forwards Michael Grabner (shoulder) and David Ullstrom (groin) and defensemen Matt Carkner (groin) and Brian Strait (ankle). Newsday's Arthur Staple reported via Twitter on Wednesday that Grabner and Carkner could return to the lineup against the Habs.

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