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Isles end trip with a visit to the desert

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (14-18-6) at COYOTES (19-17-5)

TV: MSG PLUS 2; FS-Arizona (HD)

Last 10:
New York 5-5-0; Phoenix 3-5-2

Season Series: It's the only meeting of the season between the two teams. Phoenix won 4-3 in a shootout on Long Island in the only game last season; the Isles won 5-4 in the tiebreaker two years ago in their last visit to Arena.

Big Story: The Islanders are playing the finale of a three-game trip after winning in Carolina on Tuesday and blowing a third-period lead in a 4-2 loss at Anaheim on Friday. The Coyotes are making a pit stop in Glendale -- they come home for a single game after a four-game trip, then fly to New York to start a three-game trip Tuesday night.

Team Scope:

The Isles had a chance to come to the desert with a four-game winning streak after taking a 2-1 lead early in the third period at Anaheim. But they failed to convert on a power play, allowed a shorthanded goal to Bobby Ryan, saw a defensive error turn into the go-ahead goal by Ryan Getzlaf and wound up with one of their most disappointing losses of the season in a game they should have won --and the kind of lost opportunity that has them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

"Their skill guys made some plays, and we defended poorly on a few of them," coach Jack Capuano said.

Coyotes: Thursday's 1-0 overtime loss at Los Angeles earned the Coyotes a point but left them frustrated by a continuing lack of offense. Mike Smith stopped 27 shots to get Phoenix into overtime, but coach Dave Tippett said his team left a point on the table in L.A.

"We gave away some points in the first half of the season that is not typical of our team, last-minute goals against, those things have to get shored up," he said Friday. "We can't afford to give any more points away.

"Points are going to be very valuable , and I think it's going to be a dogfight just like last year, right to the end. We have to make sure we can find a way to get on top of that pack."

Who's Hot: Almost all of the Islanders' offense has been coming from the top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo. In the four games since Okposo was put on the right side, Tavares has two goals and eight points, Moulson is 2-3-5 and Okposo is 2-2-4. … Radim Vrbata has three goals in his last three games and leads the Coyotes with 19, matching his output for all of last season.

Injury Report: The Isles added to their injury list when center Marty Reasoner left Friday's game with what the team said was a broken right hand. They are also without goaltenders Rick DiPietro (groin) and Al Montoya (concussion), defenseman Mike Mottau (concussion) and forwards Jay Pandolfo (broken foot), Micheal Haley (hand) and David Ullstrom (concussion). … Phoenix has been playing without centers Martin Hanzal (face) and Boyd Gordon (lower body). Defenseman Adrian Aucoin left Thursday's game after taking a puck in the face.

Stat Pack: Third periods continue to be the bane of the Islanders. They were outscored 3-1 in the final 20 minutes by the Ducks and have scored a League-low 24 third-period goals while allowing 45. The third period is the Coyotes' best offensively -- they've scored 35 times.

Puck Drop: Smith's return from a groin injury this week is good news for the Coyotes. He has more than filled the void left by the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov, and if the Coyotes are to make the playoffs for the third straight season, he'll have to carry the load. But Smith has already played 30 games this season and is on pace to shatter his career high of 43.

Tippett is confident Smith will be up to the task.

"I think he'll hold up very well --he just got off a nice rest," Tippett said Friday, alluding to Smith's absence. "Mike has wanted this challenge his whole career, wanted this situation his whole career. I think he's embraced the challenge, come into our team and been a very good player for us, and I don't see any reason why that would change."

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