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Islanders and Panthers look to end scoring slumps

by Matthew Mankiewich

ISLANDERS (3-2-0) at PANTHERS (3-3-0)


Season Series: The scene for the second of four games shifts from Long Island to South Florida, which historically hasn't been the friendliest of road venues for the Islanders -- they have an 11-19-6 record between Miami Arena and BankAtlantic Center. Home ice wasn't exactly welcoming for them either two Saturdays ago despite the enthusiastic opening-night crowd. The Panthers held the Isles scoreless in a 2-0 win at Nassau Coliseum.

Big story: Both teams have cooled off offensively in the past couple of days. The Isles scored 11 games in winning three games at home, but managed just 17 shots and one goal in Thursday's 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay. The Panthers erupted for seven goals Monday night in Tampa, but come into this game after being blanked in consecutive games by Washington and Buffalo. Florida did almost nothing offensively on Thursday in a 3-0 loss to the Sabres, managing just 22 shots and rarely testing Ryan Miller.

Team Scope

Islanders: The three home games after the loss to Florida were impressive -- the Isles eked a 2-1 win on Columbus Day against the Wild, blew out a Lightning team that was still trying to relearn its defense and beating the Rangers 4-2 last Saturday. They traveled down to Tampa Bay, however, and saw a team that looked more like the one that made the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The Bolts limited the Isles to 17 shots and took the vaunted Moulson-Tavares-Parenteau line out of the game. The 4-1 loss was a classic case of turnabout being fair play.

"They outworked us," coach Jack Capuano said. "They had more desperation to their game. They got around our goaltender, and our forwards didn't get around their goaltender. And to me that was a huge difference in the game, their net presence versus our net presence."

Panthers: Like the Isles, the Panthers were able to catch the Lightning when they were still trying to find themselves, holding them off in a 3-2 shootout win at home and then opening up on them on the back end, 7-4. But Florida showed little offensively in back-to-back 3-0 losses at Washington on Tuesday and at home to Buffalo two nights later. They managed only 42 shots in the back-to-back losses.

"That's six periods in a row, where we had little snap shots, but we're a long way from where we were (a few) days ago," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.

Who's hot : Jose Theodore played a strong game in goal Thursday despite the lack of support, stopping a season-high 35 shots against the Sabres, while rookie Jacob Markstrom kept a 31-shot Capital barrage under control. … John Tavares' back-to-back four-point games, punctuated by a hat trick against the Rangers, earned him NHL Second Star of the Week.

Injury report: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip soreness), forwards Sean Bergenheim (soreness) and Shawn Matthias (flu) are expected to be ready Saturday after missing games this week. Goalie Scott Clemmensen is still recovering from double knee surgery and is expected back by the end of October while forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder) continues to practice anticipating a return next week. … The Islanders took all three goalies to Florida with them, with Rick DiPietro (concussion) taking part in practice. Defenseman Milan Jurcina (groin) is skating but remains day-to-day, while forward Nino Niederreiter (groin) has resumed skating but is out indefinitely.

Stat pack: 30-year-old Bracken Kearns made his NHL debut Thursday for the Panthers, only the second player over 30 to be called up by the franchise. Magnus Svensson came up as a 32-year-old in 1995. ... The Panthers are 0-3-0 when they allow the first goal, 3-0-0 when they score first. ... The Isles' top line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau has scored eight of the team's 12 goals so far, but were held off the board Thursday.

Puck drop: "I'm not going to blow the lines up right now or start to dismantle anything. If they were getting chances, that's one thing, but right now they're not getting too many chances in the games we've played. So we'll keep 'em together and, hopefully, it will come for those guys. I'm hoping it'll come for the other lines." -- Capuano in Newsday on the need for the Islanders' other three lines to start scoring

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