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Isles begin road trip at Carolina

by Pete Jensen
ISLANDERS (13-17-6) at HURRICANES (13-21-6)


Last 10: New York 4-6-0; Carolina 4-4-2

Season Series: Tuesday marks the first of four meetings between these Eastern Conference foes. Last season, the Hurricanes outscored the Islanders, 18-8, to sweep the four-game season series.

Big Story: The 'Canes and Isles are currently tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points, but look to leap their counterpart in the standings and kick off the New Year on a winning note. The Isles, who have played four less games this season than the Canes, picked up their second consecutive victory in a 4-1 rout of the Edmonton Oilers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday. Carolina, meanwhile, dropped a 5-2 road decision Saturday against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

Team Scope:

Islanders: Heading into a crucial two-game homestand to close out the calendar year, the Islanders were in dire need of a spark. As it has in the past, the Islanders' top line came through for coach Jack Capuano. After John Tavares and PA Parenteau notched two points apiece in Thursday's 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames, Matt Moulson and Tavares had a hand in each of the first two goals of Saturday’s rout of Edmonton.

All in all, the line combined for 11 points in two games, but they were not alone. Evgeni Nabokov, who had only two wins in 10 decisions entering the homestand, stopped a combined 57 of 59 shots in two much-needed victories.

"I thought goaltending and special teams were a huge factor," Capuano said. "Our penalty kill did a great job against a highly-skilled team, our power play got some timely goals and Nabby made some big saves at key moments."

Hurricanes: The 'Canes stormed into Tampa Bay on Saturday having won three of their last four games. But unfortunately, they ran into Steven Stamkos at the wrong time, who added to his NHL lead in goal-scoring by notching a hat trick to hand Carolina its second defeat in three contests. The Canes mustered only 26 shots on goal, while goaltender Cam Ward allowed five goals on 32 shots to drop coach Kirk Muller to 5-8-2 since taking over on Nov. 28.

"The last few games on the road, we're in these tight games," Muller told "We've got to learn that on the road is going to be a battle. We have to be ready to play three periods. Tampa Bay was ready to play in the third and we weren't, and they outplayed us."

Who’s Hot: Carolina captain Eric Staal has exploded for two goals and three assists in his last two contests. … Tavares has been a point-per-game force as of late for the Islanders, reeling off five goals and 10 assists over his last 14 games.

Injury Report: Jeff Skinner (concussion), who has missed 10 consecutive games for Carolina, skated with the team at practice Monday wearing a non-contact jersey. Joni Pitkanen (concussion) and backup goaltender Brian Boucher (lower body) are out indefinitely for the Hurricanes. Patrick Dwyer (upper body) is also out for the Canes, with no word on a timetable for his return. … Al Montoya and David Ullstrom are both out with concussions for New York, while Jay Pandolfo (foot) and Rick DiPietro (groin) are also expected to miss Tuesday's game against the 'Canes.

Stat Pack: After finishing with a League-high 33.2 shots on goal allowed last season, the Hurricanes are tied for the NHL's fifth-worst mark in that category this year (31.3).

Puck Drop: "It seems we've had a few stretches of good games and then we follow it up with some bad ones," Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald told Newsday. "We know we have to be more consistent because we don't have time to keep taking steps back."

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