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Islanders depending on Greiss to bounce back

New York goalie to face Carolina with 1-5-1 record in past seven games

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

HURRICANES (33-28-15) at ISLANDERS (40-25-9)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG+, NHL.TV

NEW YORK -- New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss was arguably their most valuable player over the first half of their season. But now they need him more than ever.

Greiss, who is 1-5-1 over his past seven games and has lost four in a row, will get the start when the Islanders host the Carolina Hurricanes at Barclays Center on Tuesday. After allowing six goals on 41 shots in a 7-4 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, Greiss is excited for the opportunity to respond.

"You always want to bounce back," Greiss said Tuesday morning. "You want to get the 'W' again. It doesn't really matter who you play or what's going on. You want to play hard and come back and win the next game."

Greiss became the Islanders' No. 1 goaltender when Jaroslav Halak sustained a lower-body injury during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 8. It's a new situation for Greiss, who had never played more than 25 games in an NHL season before. He'll make his 34th start Tuesday.

He insists the increased workload hasn't played a role in this bump in the road.

"I don't think so," Greiss said. "When you don't play, you practice a lot. You get a lot of shots in practice. [Playing games] might even be a little easier. It's different, but I don't think it's any tougher on the body."

New York entered Tuesday holding the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with a two-point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. Combine that with the recent play of rookie goalie Jean-Francois Berube (2-0-1 in his past three starts), and the pressure will be on Greiss to perform well against the Hurricanes and moving forward.

"For us to be successful, we're going to need goaltending," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "That's putting it bluntly. You just look around the League every night, goalies are giving their teams a chance to win. Our goalies have done that.

"Yeah, he might have struggled a little bit, (but) it doesn't concern me. We haven't had much practice. He's one of those guys that likes to get on the ice more than any goalie that I've seen before. He's going right back tonight and hopefully he'll have a strong game for us."

Despite his recent struggles (three or more goals allowed in three of his past four starts), the Islanders remain confident in Greiss. They haven't forgotten how sharp he's been the majority of the season.

"No matter who you are, you're going to go through little stretches," forward Josh Bailey said. "I don't even think he's been that bad. There's probably a couple he'd want back, but we have faith in whoever's in net for us. It's just when you're a goalie, it stands out a little bit more if you have a little tough stretch. I'm sure he'll be fine. Our confidence definitely hasn't wavered."

Greiss wasn't on top of his game against the Lightning on Friday, but he was also victimized by several defensive breakdowns in front of him. Capuano knows everyone needs to improve if New York is going to qualify for the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

"We've got one guy that's played five NHL games, and we've got another guy that's in unchartered territory as far as games played," Capuano said. "But we have faith in our guys. We have to play well in front of them. But when we need a big save, we're going to need it."

Carolina is playing the fourth of six consecutive games against Metropolitan Division opponents. The Hurricanes are 2-0-1 thus far, including a 4-3 overtime loss against the Islanders at PNC Arena on Saturday.

"Obviously we've been trying to grow a team that's consistently hard to play against," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "We want a team that's consistently in the playoffs and I think we're building towards that; we have a lot of young players that [have stepped in] and played really well. It's made for a fun year and hopefully we can take another step next year."

Here are the projected lineups:

Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Chris Terry
Nathan Gerbe - Jay McClement - Patrick Brown
Brad Malone - Brody Sutter - Ryan Murphy

Jaccob Slavin - Ron Hainsey
Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce
Michal Jordan - Justin Faulk

Cam Ward
Eddie Lack

Injured: James Wisniewski (knee), Riley Nash (upper body), Andrej Nestrasil (back)
Scratched: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Derek Ryan

Josh Bailey - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Shane Prince
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Thomas Greiss
Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Jaroslav Halak (lower body), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Marek Zidlicky (upper body), Adam Pelech (upper body)
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Steve Bernier, Ryan Pulock

Status report: Carolina coach Bill Peters did not address the media Tuesday morning. Ryan was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League and is expected to arrive a few hours before opening faceoff. … Capuano said Grabovski isn't close to returning. Pelech is skating but no return date has been set.

Who's hot: Rask scored twice in Carolina's 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday to extend his goal streak to three games. Skinner (one goal, two assists) and Slavin (three assists) have three-game point streaks and Staal has a point in four of his past five games. … Clutterbuck scored the game-tying and winning goals at Carolina on Saturday. Kulemin has goals in back-to-back games after going 21 without one. Nelson has a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist).

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