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Jets chase third straight win as they face Islanders

by Jon Lane

ISLANDERS (23-32-8) at JETS (30-26-6)


Last 10: New York 2-7-1; Winnipeg 7-2-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets. Former Islander Al Montoya made 28 saves and the Jets scored three second-period goals en route to a 3-2 win on Nov. 27 at Nassau Coliseum.

Big story: The Jets are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and seek their third straight win Tuesday against the Islanders. Before Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach, Winnipeg was 10 points out of the final wild-card spot. Since then, the Jets are 11-3-1 and deep in the hunt for their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the franchise relocated from Atlanta.

Missing superstar John Tavares and beginning a four-game trip through Western Canada off losses in back-to-back weekend home games, the Islanders are left playing for pride.

Team Scope:

Islanders: New York was outscored 11-4 in weekend defeats to the New Jersey Devils and the Florida Panthers, and has dropped seven of its past nine games. The Islanders are also 2-6-4 in 12 games in which they've given away a two-goal lead, like they did Sunday to the Panthers.

"It's pretty disappointing," said defenseman Andrew MacDonald, a topic of trade rumors. "I think everyone was so excited about last season and the direction the team was going. It is really frustrating as players and I'm sure as an organization as well. It's too bad the way things ended up. I'm sure everyone in here wishes we did more to prevent it from happening, but it is where we are right now and there's not a whole lot we can do about it right now."

Jets: Under Maurice, Winnipeg has allowed an average of 2.2 goals in 15 games compared to 3.1 in 47 under Noel. The Jets have also been relentless on the penalty kill at 84.6 percent, including holding the Nashville Predators to 0-for-6 on the power play this past Saturday.

But even though the Jets are 2-0 since the Olympic break, they know they can get better.

"We're just competing," Jets forward Chris Thorburn said. "Our confidence is there. But it's two games and there's still 20 left in the season, so it's nothing to get all worked up about. It's a long road ahead of us and we understand that. And that's been the biggest key. We've been able to stay in the moment and take it one game at a time."

Who's hot: Islanders forward Josh Bailey has an assist in four of his past five games. … Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is 9-3-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average under Maurice. Forward Andrew Ladd has three goals in his past five games and 10 in his past 10. Forward Blake Wheeler has 32 points in his past 33 games.

Injury report: Islanders forward Matt Martin (lower body) will play. Tavares (torn meniscus/MCL in left knee) is out for the season. … Jets center James Wright (ankle sprain) is "out indefinitely," said Maurice, who added forward Eric Tangradi (undisclosed) is day-to-day after getting "bumped up in practice" Sunday. Forward Matt Halischuk (right forearm surgery) was activated from injured reserve and will play. Defenseman Grant Clitsome (back surgery) is on IR.


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