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Islanders hope to stay hot as they visit Red Wings

by Matthew Mankiewich /
ISLANDERS (10-19-6) at RED WINGS (24-9-4)


Last 10 --
New York 5-4-1; Detroit 6-3-1

Season series -- Typical inter-conference one-shot deal, and the Islanders actually have a winning streak going against the vaunted Wings, having captured two in a row, both shutouts. They haven't lost in regulation to Detroit since November 28, 2003, a 6-0 rout at the Joe.

Big story -- Sid got stopped by who? The Islanders, bouncing back from a 7-2 drubbing by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, returned home Wednesday and stifled one of the most prolific scoring machines in the NHL, ending Sidney Crosby's 25-game point streak and beating the Penguins in a shootout, 2-1 for their fourth win in five games. Meanwhile, the Wings should be reeling from injuries to two of their top scorers, Danny Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk. Instead, they've won three in a row and also four of their last five.

Team scope:

Islanders --
It was arguably the best game they've played this season. The Isles' defense was tight and Rick DiPietro was stellar, making 37 saves plus a crucial stop on Crosby in the shootout.

"It wasn't me. It was a complete team effort," DiPietro said. "It's a defensive corps that played with a lot of focus and a lot of heart tonight and the offense chipped in. I have said it since the start of the year, when we are playing smart in our defensive zone and we aren’t running around making stupid mistakes at our blue line, we are a good hockey team."

"We made some adjustments early this morning and I thought they responded real well," coach Jack Capuano said. "It was a good test for our coaching staff, a good test for our players. We're a young team, I thought our guys responded and it's a credit to them. They played real hard tonight."

Now they take the steadily improving show on the road for a five-game swing through Detroit, out to Alberta, and back through Colorado and Chicago.

Red Wings -- It doesn't get any easier for the manpower-challenged Wings. Three road games in four nights out of the Christmas break is tough enough, but wins in Minnesota and Colorado had them poised to do some good things against Pacific Division-leading Dallas. It looked grim when the Stars took a 3-1 lead seven minutes into the second period.  But these are the Red Wings, and they know how to work a win. Six unanswered goals later, a Patrick Eaves hat trick among them, it was a 7-3 Detroit victory and a 3-0 sweep of the trip.

"A trip like this right after Christmas, back-to-back to start after turkey, you're set up to fail any way you look at it," coach Mike Babcock said in the Detroit Free Press. "Our guys found a way to get it done. You could easily go on this trip and end up 0-3, so to do what we did, I think, is positive."

Who's hot -- The hat trick gives Eaves 6 goals in his last seven games and 11 on the season, but the fact that he has taken three or four shots in seven of the nine games in which he scored makes Babcock very happy.

"He can shoot the puck, and he likes to do it, so he's done it, and he's like anybody who starts scoring, now he shoots the puck all the time," Babcock said in the Free Press. "The guys that don't score, they never shoot the puck, they just keep passing and wonder why they don't score. I'm glad he's got it figured out."

The true star of the past week is the NHL's second star, Henrik Zetterberg, who has carried the team on his sore back since the Datsyuk injury, putting up 9 points in his last five games. Nicklas Lidstrom has been able to match Zetterberg's feat, highlighted by a 4-point performance on Monday in Colorado.

Last week's first star, Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson, might have had it tarnished a bit in Monday's Ranger barrage, but even then, he stopped 45 of 52 shots. He's 4-1-1 over his last six games. Josh Bailey scored the Isles' lone goal in regulation on Wednesday and has three in the five games he's played since being recalled from Bridgeport.

Injury report --
Datsyuk's broken right hand will keep him out until late January, while Cleary shouldn't be too far behind as his fractured left ankle heals. On the Island, defenseman Radek Martinek has been out four games with a sprained wrist but is still considered day-to-day. Forward Kyle Okposo hopes to return from shoulder surgery by late January and has been skating in full gear, but has not practiced with the team.

Stat pack -- Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic logged a career high 25:08 of ice time Wednesday and along with Andrew MacDonald is considered a big reason James Wisniewski became a tradable commodity. Hamonic also has the longest consecutive-game streak (15) among Islanders defensemen. … The Isles' 4-0-1 run at home has put them at .500 in Nassau Coliseum overall at 7-7-3, adding up to 17 of a possible 34 points. … Zetterberg is on pace to pick up 90 points, which would be the most for him since the Stanley Cup season of 2007-08, in which he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Puck drop -- "So it's definitely tough injuries, but as you say, we have been there before. We just have to find a way to win hockey games, and players that used to play with us in scrimmage have to play a little bit more, and we have to take advantage of that. I also think everyone will be back, and we will have players to have games to get us going again." -- Zetterberg via the Red Wings' official website on yet another wave of injuries

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