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Kings try to end slump by beating Islanders

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (29-32-10) at KINGS (40-24-5)

Last 10 -- New York 4-4-2; Los Angeles 4-4-2

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the second time this season, but haven't seen each other since Columbus Day, when the Kings held off the Isles 2-1. This is the Islanders' first visit to the Staples Center since Oct. 10, 2006, when the Kings won 4-2.

Big story -- There's a little nervousness in Southern California, where the Kings have been solidly ensconced in the top eight all season -- but a 3-4-1 slide since the Olympic break has chopped off a lot of their safety net. The Islanders still have dreams of making a late playoff push, so Friday's 5-4 OT loss at Anaheim -- a game they led 4-2 midway through the third period -- was especially damaging.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Islanders' third-period problems bit them again Friday night in Anaheim. New York dominated the second period and led 4-2 after 40 minutes, only to fall apart in the third. Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky got the tying goal with 32 seconds left in regulation, and Saku Koivu won it 14 seconds into overtime. New York has now been outscored 78-40 in the third period, the worst differential in the NHL.

"Awful, brutal," defenseman Mark Streit of how it felt for his club to let another lead slip away. "We thought we were pretty much in control of the game for the first 40 minutes. I thought in the first half of the season we struggled in the last 20 minutes. We've started to play better and improved as a team, got some wins. We're headed in the right direction, (but) tonight we couldn't finish it off."

Kings -- With his team coming off consecutive home losses that have reduced their lead over ninth-place Calgary to four points, coach Terry Murray shuffled his lines, held meetings and drilled players hard in Friday's practice. He hopes the result will be more desperation and a vastly improved effort from the one the Kings gave in their 3-0 loss to Chicago on Thursday -- a game that saw the Hawks outshoot L.A. 37-17.

"The desperation is a good thing," Murray said. "It elevates everybody's adrenaline and emotions and your focus. You're going out and playing the game, shift after shift, at that high tempo that we've shown to be able to play at for most of the year."

Who's hot -- Isles rookie John Tavares had goal and an assist on Friday and is 3-4-7 in the first two games of New York's three-game trip. … The Kings have hit the skids offensively, with just three non-shootout goals in their last three games. Alexander Frolov does have 9 points in L.A.'s last nine games.

Injury report -- Isles forward Kyle Okposo was supposed to miss Friday's game with an upper-body injury; not only did he play, but he had a pair of goals. … The Kings are healthy.

Stat pack -- The Kings have won the last four meetings between the teams and are 4-0 with a tie in the last five. … Los Angeles killed all five Chicago power plays on Thursday and has killed 20 consecutive opponents' power plays. In their last 15 games, the Kings are 45-for-50 on the penalty kill.

Puck drop -- Murray is desperate to turn his team around, lest the team's first playoff berth since 2002 slip away. The Isles could be a perfect opponent -- New York will be playing on back-to-back nights and is coming off a gut-wrenching loss at Anaheim in a game it should have won.

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