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Panthers try to snap slump against Islanders

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (12-12-3) at PANTHERS (7-15-6)

TV: MSG PLUS; FS-Florida

Last 10: New York 5-3-2; Florida 2-6-2

Season series: These teams are seeing each other for the first time this season, and the Islanders are making their only trip to South Florida. The Panthers come to Long Island on March 24 and April 16.

Big story: New York is finishing a three-game trip that has seen wildly different outcomes in the first two games. The Islanders were hammered 6-1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday but blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 on Thursday. The banged-up Panthers have dropped their past three in regulation and are 0-4-1 in their past five to fall to the bottom of the overall standings.

Team Scope:

Islanders: A three-day break was just what the weary Islanders needed after they were hammered in Pittsburgh. A better-rested team limited Tampa Bay to 18 shots on goal. John Tavares converted on New York's lone power play, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped six shots in each period.

"Whenever you have time to practice on some things, it helps for sure," coach Jack Capuano said afterward. "We worked on conditioning, but at the same time, we worked on some other things we needed to work on. You can only show so much video. Our guys battled tonight. We had some injuries, some guys got banged up, but all 20 guys battled tonight."

Panthers: The 4-1 score doesn't reflect it, but the Panthers dominated for long stretches of their game at the Boston Bruins on Thursday. But Florida wasn't able to get more than one puck past Tuukka Rask -- and for that, the Panthers needed a highlight-reel shorthanded goal by Shawn Matthias.

"We've got to find a way to get some puck luck and get that first goal," coach Kevin Dineen told the team's website. "Just keep searching for the answers and obviously there's a lot of try right now. I think these guys are pushing as hard as they can and that's the answer to our problems right now."

If the Panthers are going to bounce back against any team, it's the Islanders -- they are 15-3-3 in the past 21 meetings and 9-0-2 in the past 11 at the BB&T Center.

Who's hot: Tavares has four goals, including a pair of game-winners, in his past five games. Brad Boyes had the clinching empty-netter at Tampa Bay and has three multipoint efforts in that same five-game stretch. … Matthias has three goals in the past four games for Florida. Tomas Kopecky's 11 goals are one more than he had all of last season.

Injury report: Islanders forward David Ullstrom (groin) went down Thursday and will miss at least three weeks. Speedster Michael Grabner (shoulder) is out. Defensemen Matt Carkner (lower body) and Brian Strait (ankle) are on injured reserve. … The Panthers have been battered by injuries -- the latest one is a knee problem that will sideline forward Kris Versteeg for the rest of the season. Florida is missing forwards Stephen Weiss (wrist surgery), Scottie Upshall (lower body) and Sean Bergenheim (groin), defensemen Dmitry Kulikov (hand) and Mike Weaver (lower body), and goaltender Jose Theodore (groin). Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body) hopes to return after missing 22 games.

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