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Islanders open road trip against Maple Leafs

by Brian Compton

ISLANDERS (15-22-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (21-17-5)


Last 10: New York 6-3-1; Toronto 5-3-2.

Season series: This is the second of three games between the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto earned a 5-2 victory on Nov. 19 at Air Canada Centre.

Big story: New York has played better of late, but could again be without No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov for an extended period of time. Nabokov left in the first period of the Islanders' 7-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday due to a lower-body injury.

After the game, Nabokov was placed on injured reserve. Anders Nilsson was recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League on an emergency loan.

Toronto is coming off a 7-1 loss on home ice against the New York Rangers on Saturday. It snapped the Maple Leafs' three-game winning streak.

Team Scope:

Islanders: John Tavares recorded his fifth career hat trick and added two assists and Ryan Strome scored his first NHL goal to help New York erase an early 2-0 deficit en route to an offensive outburst against the Stars. Kevin Poulin stopped 13 of 15 shots in relief and the Islanders won twice on their three-game homestand.

Now, they begin a six-game road trip Tuesday. They'll also face the Colorado Avalanche, Stars, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers. Without Nabokov, the challenge becomes that much greater. New York went 1-9-2 when Nabokov went down with a groin injury earlier this season.

"We're going to have a tough test tomorrow [against] a team that's looking to bounce back," Tavares said. "They've had a few days off, so we know we're going to have to be ready to play. We can't just dwell on this one and think it's going to be easy. We've got to come out with the right intensity, great work ethic and play a smart road game … back to that road mentality that we've had lately and know that they're going to be ready to play. We've got to be at the top of our game."

Maple Leafs: Nothing went right for Toronto on Saturday. The Rangers scored the game's first five goals and outshot the Maple Leafs 50-26. Jonathan Bernier was pulled after stopping 27 of 32 shots.

Naturally, coach Randy Carlyle was asked Monday whether he will go back to Bernier against the Islanders, or if James Reimer will get the nod in goal.

"It has a little bit of cloudiness just because of the last game," Carlyle said. "In talking yesterday, I said we weren't going to talk about the last game today, I've mentioned it twice already. But that's what happens. As a coach, you never lose sight of what happened. Every decision you make is based on what's best for Tuesday. That's not any different than how we normally do it, it's just that the last game, do we pin that on a bad game, throw it out, ignore it, move on? Well, tomorrow we have to do that, but today we think about it. That influences your judgment on who goes into the lineup, who comes out of the lineup, who plays goal, who doesn't play goal.

"But we're going to do the same thing … we're going to do the evaluation of our players. We're going to say, 'Does this player give us the best chance over another player in this situation?' We'll make the decision and go with it."

Who's hot: Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek extended his point streak to nine games Monday. He has five goals and nine assists over that span. Tavares has a six-game point streak (seven goals, six assists). … Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak has a personal seven-game point streak (two goals, eight assists).

Injury report: Besides Nabokov, the Islanders are also without defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Radek Martinek (back spasms). Kyle Okposo missed the game Monday to witness the birth of his daughter, but should be back Tuesday. … Maple Leafs centers Trevor Smith (hand) and Dave Bolland (ankle tendon laceration) are out.

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