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New York Islanders vs. St. Louis Blues

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GAME: New York Islanders (30-25-10-3) at St. Louis Blues (31-26-9-2).

TIME: Tuesday, 8 p.m. EST.

Though the New York Islanders appear poised to add some veterans before Tuesday's trading deadline, their biggest move will not require a trade.

The Islanders hope to have Alexei Yashin back when they travel to St. Louis to play the Blues in a game with substantial playoff implications.

Yashin, who has 288 goals and 655 points during his 10-year career, has been out since Dec. 23 while recovering from a laceration of his right forearm.

Yashin had two ligaments partially severed and a nerve completely severed as a result of the injury, which happened when he was cut by the skate blade of Philadelphia forward Michal Handzus. The damage was surgically repaired and there was some initial numbness in his hand.

The Islanders desperately need some kind of spark, as they have won just one of their last seven (1-3-2-1) and have had their lead over Buffalo trimmed to six points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

While rumors are swirling that the cost-conscious Islanders could add payroll - a high-scoring winger or stay-at-home defenseman have been suggested - before Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline, the return of Yashin at some point during their pivotal five-game road trip is clearly the best bit of news they could get.

"I think it'll be a big boost for us," captain Michael Peca told Newsday. "Our power play could obviously use an injection of Alexei and it just adds to the overall depth to our team. We're looking forward to him coming back."

Because the injury was to his arm, Yashin, who had 12 goals and 12 assists in 33 games before his injury, has been keeping up with his skating for several weeks. However, his timing and hands could be off for several games.

"It's a situation for me, what I want to do, is come back in good shape and be able to shoot the puck well," Yashin said.

The Blues, who have made the playoffs 24 straight seasons, have found new life of late at the expense of the Islanders and Sabres. St. Louis ended a seven-game winless streak (0-4-2-1) by beating New York 4-2 on Saturday. The Blues then stopped Buffalo 5-1 on Sunday to pull into a tie for eighth place in the West with Los Angeles with 14 games to play.

The Blues had scored just eight goals during their winless streak.

"There's nothing righted yet, but this is how we need to play," said Blues center Doug Weight, who had two assists on Sunday. "We still have a lot of work to do, but if we play like this we'll be successful."

In their win on Long Island on Saturday, the Blues were badly outshot 41-17, but former Islander Chris Osgood was spectacular in goal, stopping 39 shots.

Backup Reinhard Divis played against Buffalo, so expect Osgood to be back in net on Tuesday.

STANDINGS (through March 7): Islanders - 73 points, 3rd place, 15 PB, Atlantic Division. Blues - 73 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Trent Hunter and Mariusz Czerkawski, 23 goals; Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Trent Hunter, 46 points; Eric Cairns, 177 PIM. Blues - Keith Tkachuk, 27 goals and 61 points; Weight, 44 assists; Mike Danton, 141 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 7): Islanders - Power play: 16.9 percent (45 for 267), 10th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (254 for 300), 9th (tied). Blues - Power play: 16.8 percent (50 for 297), 12th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (281 for 333), 13th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - Rick DiPietro (16-14-5, 3 SO, 2.39 GAA); Garth Snow (14-14-5, 1, 2.76). Blues - Osgood (23-22-7, 2, 2.30); Divis (4-3-1, 3.09).

SEASON SERIES: Blues, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Saturday; Blues, 4-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., Pavol Demitra, Mark Rycroft and Tkachuk scored for the Blues. Jason Blake and Mark Parrish netted goals for the Islanders.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 9-15-7-2 on the road; Blues - 18-9-6-0 at home.


Associated Press
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