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Minnesota Wild vs. New York Islanders

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GAME: Minnesota Wild (25-26-20-2) at New York Islanders (32-27-10-4).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Islanders know their recent road trip could have been much better.

The Islanders will try to shake off a miserable loss in their last game when they take on the Minnesota Wild in the opener of a three-game homestand.

The Islanders lead the Buffalo Sabres by four points in the race for the eight and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with nine games to play. The lead could have been as much as six if they had played a little defense on Wednesday.

New York outshot Florida 28-7 in the first period but led by just one goal on its way to a 6-4 loss to the Panthers.

"We can't allow this to take the wind out of our sails," New York captain Michael Peca said. "With Buffalo (gaining), we can't afford it."

The Islanders finished their five-game road trip 2-2-0-1, and will play six of their final nine at Nassau Coliseum, where they are 21-10-3-1 this season.

Cliff Ronning was tremendous on the road trip, registering four consecutive multipoint games. The 38-year-old center has 20 points in 31 games with the Islanders this season.

Minnesota is coming off a 2-0 win at Boston on Thursday, its 11th victory in 17 games against the Eastern Conference this season (11-3-2-1).

"Maybe (the East teams) don't know us," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We don't score against our own conference and then come in here and score some goals."

Despite their success again the East, the Wild are one game below .500 overall and in 11th place in the West, eight points out of the final playoff spot with nine games to play.

The Wild lead the all-time series against the Islanders 3-2.

STANDINGS: Wild - 72 points, 5th place, 21 PB, Northwest Division. Islanders - 78 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Andrew Brunette, Alexandre Daigle and Marian Gaborik, 14 goals; Brunette, 29 assists and 43 points; Matt Johnson, 161 PIM. Islanders - Trent Hunter, 24 goals and 47 points; Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Eric Cairns, 182 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 17): Wild - Power play: 13.4 percent (39 for 291), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (212 for 253), 15th (tied). Islanders - Power play: 16.7 percent (46 for 276), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (262 for 313), 18th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Wild - Dwayne Roloson (16-16-11, 4 SO, 1.88 GAA); Manny Fernandez (8-12-9, 1, 2.51). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (18-16-5, 3, 2.47); Garth Snow (14-15-5, 1, 2.77).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 20, 2002; Islanders, 4-2. At Minnesota, DiPietro allowed two goals on Minnesota's first four shots in his first game of the season, but rebounded to finish with 15 saves in the win.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wild - 10-13-13-1 on the road; Islanders - 21-10-3-1 at home.


Associated Press
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