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Lightning aim to hold off Islanders in East standings

by Pete Jensen
ISLANDERS (30-32-11) at LIGHTNING (33-33-7)


Last 10:
New York 4-4-2; Tampa Bay 4-5-1

Season Series:
Saturday's clash is the last time these conference foes will cross paths this regular season. New York has taken two of the first three matchups between the teams, with both of its wins coming at Nassau Coliseum by a combined 10-2 margin. In their lone meeting in Florida on October 20, the Lightning held their ground in a 4-1 triumph over the Isles.

Big Story:
The Lightning and Islanders, separated by only two points in the Eastern Conference standings, collide for the final time this season Saturday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum. New York has had three days of rest and looks to stay unbeaten on its current road swing after picking up a shootout win Saturday in Montreal before dismantling the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2, on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday on home ice with a 3-2 shootout triumph over the Edmonton Oilers.

Team Scope:

Islanders: The Islanders finally got a piece of the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, using a three-goal third period to avoid a season sweep by Toronto. Matt Moulson scored both of his goals in the final 20 minutes, John Tavares had a three-assist outing and New York locked down defensively to finally break through against its slumping conference rivals.

"We only gave up 14 shots and we didn't give up many scoring chances," coach Jack Capuano told the team's official website. "It was a game that we were ready for and guys were prepared. All four lines contributed."

Lightning: The injury-ravaged Bolts have all but fallen out of playoff contention by posting a 2-4-0 mark in the first six games of their current seven-game homestand, which wraps up Saturday against the Isles. However, Thursday's win over Edmonton came as a much-needed boost for veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who has struggled to find his rhythm in net all season long.

Roloson pushed aside 34 of 36 shots on the night to help the Lightning hold off the Oilers for a shootout victory. The last start in which Roloson allowed fewer than three goals in a game was way back on Nov. 17. The 42-year-old is expected to get the nod again on Saturday.

"Rollie played great," coach Guy Boucher told "He was solid, looked in control. We really liked his game, definitely."

Who's Hot:
Moulson has 4 goals and 1 assist over his last six games, reaching a new career high in goals (32) after scoring twice against his hometown team on Tuesday. … Tom Pyatt notched the first multi-goal game of his NHL career in Thursday's win for Tampa Bay.

Injury Report:
Rick DiPietro (sports hernia) remains out for New York. … Nate Thompson and Adam Hall are day-to-day for Tampa Bay with upper-body injuries, while goalie Mathieu Garon (lower body) and captain Vincent Lecavalier (hand) remain out of the lineup.

Stat Pack: Tavares and Moulson have combined to score 63 of the Islanders' 174 goals this season, accounting for over 36 percent of the team's total output.

Puck Drop:
Despite being on track to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, the Islanders have taken a step in the right direction by inking experienced goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a one-year contract extension Wednesday.

"Evgeni has proven that he can still play at an elite level in the NHL," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "He's given us a chance to win every night and we're excited to have him back for another season."

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