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Islanders-Senators Preview @NHLdotcom
Islanders-Senators Preview

GAME: New York Islanders (17-17-2) at Ottawa Senators (26-6-3).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The last thing the struggling New York Islanders need now is another matchup with the high-powered Ottawa Senators.

The Islanders will need to be much better defensively if they are to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the league-leading Senators.

The Senators have dominated the Islanders, outscoring them 16-6 while winning all three games.

Dominating opponents is something Ottawa has done with regularity lately. The Senators have scored 16 goals during their current three-game winning streak and have totaled 20 goals in winning three straight home games.

Bryan Smolinski filled in for injured Jason Spezza on Ottawa's top line Wednesday and had a goal and an assist in a 6-2 win over Carolina. Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson also had a goal and assist for the Senators, who lead the NHL with 26 wins and 55 points.

Spezza, who is sidelined with a pulled chest muscle, is expected to miss his fifth straight game Friday.

"They're the elite in this league and in the world," Smolinski said of the trio. "So I'm not trying to do anything I'm not supposed to do. Jason has had a rough month here and I'm keeping it warm for him."

The Senators are averaging a league-high 4.34 goals.

The Islanders have been terrible defensively lately, allowing 31 goals in their past five contests. Only Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Washington have yielded more than New York's 133 in the Eastern Conference.

Early goals by Mark Parrish and Trent Hunter staked the Islanders to a 2-0 lead Wednesday against the rival Rangers, but their crosstown rivals scored six unanswered en route to a 6-2 victory.

"I thought for the most part the effort was there," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "We're showing progress, even if it's in baby steps."

Rick DiPietro, a possible starter on the U.S. Olympic team, has allowed 18 goals his past four appearances. He is 0-3 with a 5.36 goals-against average this season against the Senators.

STANDINGS: Islanders - 36 points, 4th place, 17 PB, Atlantic Division. Senators - 55 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Jason Blake and Miroslav Satan, 16 goals; Alexei Yashin, 21 assists and 35 points; Arron Asham, 72 PIM. Senators - Alfredsson and Heatley, 24 goals; Spezza, 34 assists; Alfredsson, 54 points; Zdeno Chara, 92 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Islanders - Power play: 18.4 percent (42 for 228), 11th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (194 for 241), 25th. Senators - Power play: 23.8 percent (53 for 223), 2nd. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (202 for 236), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - DiPietro (13-12-2, 0 SO, 3.43 GAA); Garth Snow (4-5-0, 3.75). Senators - Dominik Hasek (19-5-2, 3, 2.10); Ray Emery (7-1-1, 1, 2.19).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 23, 2005; Senators, 4-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., the Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and never trailed as Emery finished with 27 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 9-9-1 on the road; Senators - 15-3-0 at home.

Associated Press

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