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Isles wrap up trip in Chicago

by John Kreiser
ISLANDERS (13-20-6) at BLACKHAWKS (22-18-3)


Last 10
– New York 7-2-1; Chicago 6-4-0

Season series – It’s the only meeting between the teams this season. They haven’t seen each other since March 1, the first night after the Winter Olympics, when the Isles got a hat trick by Blake Comeau and stunned the Hawks 5-3 at the Nassau Coliseum.

Big story – The Isles are wrapping up a five-game road trip that has already seen them win at Detroit, Calgary and Colorado – they overcame an early 2-0 deficit and beat the Avs 4-3 in overtime Saturday on a goal by John Tavares. The up-and-down Hawks couldn’t hold a late 2-1 lead against Ottawa on Friday, but beat the Senators 2-1 in a shootout to stay in the top eight in the Wild West.

Team Scope:

– Tavares got the OT winner against the Avs, but the heroes were two players who weren’t with the team a week earlier. Jeremy Colliton, called up from AHL Bridgeport because of an injury to center Frans Nielsen, scored twice and rookie goalie Kevin Poulin made 34 saves for his first NHL victory.

“It means everything to me,” the 20-year-old said. “That’s why you play hockey.”

Colliton, who re-signed with the Isles last summer after spending a season in Sweden, had more goals in a period and change than he did in his previous stints with the Isles – and he did it in front of his parents, who saw their son play an NHL game for the first time.

“It means a lot,” Colliton said. “It’s exciting to get the opportunity, first of all. But I got put in that position and it’s nice to actually do something.”

Blackhawks – The Hawks have had trouble hanging onto leads recently, so when Ottawa scored a sixth-attacker goal with 1:35 left in regulation on Friday to tie the game at 2-2, there were a lot of anxious fans at the United Center. But the Hawks regrouped, made it through overtime and won the game on shootout goals by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

"We know we've got a real talented team in here," said Kane, who scored in the third period to put Chicago ahead 2-1. "If we stick to the game plan, play defense first and get our chances, then things will go pretty good for us. "As long as we don't get frustrated, that's the biggest thing with our team."

Who’s hot – Tavares has 6 goals and 14 points in his last 11 games. Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored his 150th career goal on Friday night. He has 4 goals and 6 points in his last five games.

Injury report – Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro headed home on Friday to have his injured groin re-evaluated. Defenseman Mark Eaton (hip) is expected to have hip surgery and is out indefinitely. Nielsen (groin) is day-to-day; he missed Thursday's game at Edmonton and Saturday’s win at Colorado. New York is also without defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo (shoulder surgery), forward Trent Hunter (knee surgery), center Doug Weight (back) and defensemen Radek Martinek (wrist) and Mike Mottau (hip surgery). … The Hawks are healthy for one of the few times this season.

Stat pack – The series between the two teams has had wild swings. From 1980-81 through December 1990, the Isles were 15-1-1 against the Hawks. From December 1990 through December 2002, the Hawks went 16-1-5-0, including 8-0-2-0 in the last 10 meetings. Since then, it’s been all Isles – New York has won six in a row and scored at last four goals in every game.

Puck drop –
It’s also a celebration night in Chicago, where the Hawks are paying tribute to the 1961 team that won the Stanley Cup – the last one in franchise history before the 2010 team ended a 49-year drought. Ironically, one of the members of that team was a bespectacled defenseman named Al Arbour – who later became famous for coaching the Islanders to four consecutive Cups in the early 1980s.
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