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Islanders host Panthers in home finale

by Dave Lozo

PANTHERS (13-22-6) at ISLANDERS (21-16-5)


Last 10:
Florida 4-6-0; New York 7-1-2

Season series: This is the last of three meetings. The New York Islanders have won the first two, both in regulation.

Big story: The Islanders are closing their home schedule this season against the NHL's 30th-place team and can't let their guard down. The seventh-place Islanders hold a three-point lead on the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets, and the two are scheduled to meet Saturday in Manitoba. If the Islanders let two points or even one point slip against the Florida Panthers, it could be devastating to their postseason hopes.

Team Scope:

After stringing together three straight wins for the first time all season, the Panthers have dropped three of four, including a 3-1 loss to the injury-ravaged Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in Florida. Even without Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins were still too much.

"They've got some good leaders over there," Panthers forward Scottie Upshall said. "If you're sitting on that bench and look side to side you're going to see guys that have been there and been in those big games and know the right things to say at the right times. We could learn a little bit from that."

They had plenty of chances in their showdown with the New York Rangers on Saturday and controlled the play for most of the game, but the Islanders fell 1-0 in overtime before a packed house at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders had 29 shots, many of them high-quality, but they couldn't get one past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

"I've been here three years, and that's the loudest crowd I've heard," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "There was a lot of hype surrounding the game right from the start, and on the ice it was really loud. You could really feel the energy. It's unfortunate, because it would've been real nice to score a goal and hear the crowd erupt."

Who's hot: Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his past 10 starts.

Injury report: Florida is missing Jose Theodore (groin), Ed Jovanovski (hip), Mike Weaver (lower body), Eric Selleck (concussion), Kris Versteeg (knee), Stephen Weiss (wrist) and Sean Bergenheim (groin). ... The Islanders have reactivated defensemen Brian Strait (ankle) and Joe Finley (undisclosed) from injured reserve
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