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Islanders, Avalanche seek win heading into break

by Tal Pinchevsky

AVALANCHE (36-16-5) at ISLANDERS (22-29-8)


Last 10: Colorado 6-4-0; New York 3-6-1

Season series: The Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders meet for the second and final time as both teams close out the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule on Long Island. The Islanders won Jan. 10 in Denver with Michael Grabner scoring the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory.

Big story: The Avalanche and Islanders are both struggling as they approach the Olympic break. Colorado opened 2014 with a 12-3-1 run but has lost two straight after opening a four-game road swing with a 2-1 overtime victory against the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders have lost six of their past seven and sit last in the Metropolitan Division.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado appeared to be cruising into the upcoming break but has now been outscored 8-2 in back-to-back road losses against the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Despite losing 3-1 in Philadelphia on Thursday, captain Gabriel Landeskog extended his point streak to a career-high eight games. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon also has a seven-game streak after scoring his 21st goal against the Flyers.

If there was one positive to these two losses, it was the return of veteran center Paul Stastny, who was in the lineup Tuesday night in New York after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Colorado's alternate captain has one assist in two games since coming back.

The Avalanche have been outscored badly in the past two games, but coach Patrick Roy has lauded the play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who signed a five-year contract extension last month. The Russian goaltender stopped 70 of 77 shots in the two games for a .909 save percentage.

"We are in that game because Varly made some great saves again," Roy said after the loss in Philadelphia. "I think both goalies played well. Both goalies gave a chance to their team. That's the only thing Varly could do."

Islanders: New York snapped a five-game skid Tuesday with a 1-0 victory against the Washington Capitals. But the Islanders are still struggling to score with just five goals in their past four games. A difficult situation was exacerbated earlier this week when impending free agent Thomas Vanek said he turned down a contract extension because he wants to test the market.

That tension may have come to a head at Nassau Coliseum Thursday, where Vanek was reportedly booed by Islanders fans and momentarily left with an apparent injury in New York's 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames.

But there could be some good news for the Islanders in their last game before the Olympic break. Coach Jack Capuano revealed after the team's skate Friday that defenseman Travis Hamonic could return to the lineup against Colorado.

Hamonic, who was activated off injured reserve Friday, has not played since Jan. 12 when he suffered a concussion in a 4-2 win against the Dallas Stars. The defenseman has missed 12 games with the injury, but his return would give New York's inexperienced blue line a boost.

Who's hot: In addition to his scoring streak, MacKinnon has six goals in his past nine games. Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly has 13 points in his past 13 games. … For the Islanders, forward Josh Bailey has points in two of his past three games.

Injury report: Forward Alex Tanguay (knee) remains out for Colorado and defenseman Cory Sarich (back) and wing David Van Der Gulik (concussion) are on injured reserve. … Other than Hamonic, the Islanders are fielding a healthy roster.

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