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Predators pay rare visit to Islanders

by John Kreiser
PREDATORS (31-22-4) at ISLANDERS (23-27-8)

Last 10 --
Nashville 3-6-1; New York 2-8-0

Season series --
It’s the only meeting of the season between the teams and the first visit by the Predators to the Nassau Coliseum since Oct. 16, 2006, when they won 2-1 in a shootout. Nashville beat the Isles 1-0 on Dec. 20, 2008, in the last meeting between the clubs. Nashville has won seven of the 11 meetings, including the last five.

Big story --
Two teams that see each other only rarely are both in desperate need of a victory. The Predators are involved in a frantic battle to hang onto a playoff berth in the Western Conference, while the Isles have slipped to the periphery of the playoff race in the East by dropping their last seven games, including a 3-1 home loss to Carolina on Saturday.

Team Scope:

Predators -- The Predators will spend the last week before the Olympic break in the New York metropolitan area with games against the Isles, Rangers and New Jersey Devils before finishing with a visit to another Atlantic Division club, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. It's a big trip for the Predators, who've been dropping slowly through the Western Conference standings and have dropped to eighth -- they're just two points ahead of ninth-place Detroit for the last playoff berth, and a bad week on the road could send them to the break on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Islanders --
One reason for the Isles' struggles has been their lack of size; New York is among the smallest teams in the NHL. GM Garth Snow hopes the recall of a couple of big forwards -- Jesse Joensuu and Matt Martin from AHL Bridgeport -- will help add some heft to the front line.

"For them it's not as much about points as it is intangibles, going to the net, being big bodies, finishing checks and making good decisions with the puck," coach Scott Gordon told Newsday.

The Islanders will also give goaltender Martin Biron his first start since Dec. 27. Biron has been the odd man out since Rick DiPietro's return, but got some game action in the AHL over the weekend. He is 2-11-2 in 17 appearances with the Isles this season.

Who’s hot --
Nashville's Patric Hornqvist has 17 goals and 25 points in the Predators' last 25 games dating back to Dec. 14. Steve Sullivan has 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in 15 career games against the Islanders, including 3 goals two games against them as a Predator.

Injury report --
Nashville is without forward Marcel Goc (undisclosed) and defenseman Cody Franson (ribs). … Isles forward Josh Bailey (upper body) won’t be back until after the Olympic break, and they badly missed defenseman Jack Hillen, who went down two weeks ago with a broken jaw. Forward Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone) is practicing and almost ready to return. Captain Doug Weight, who's been battling shoulder problems, will sit this one out but is expected to play Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Stat pack --
Nashville has nine players with 10 or more goals; only Washington (10) has more. The Predators also have nine players with 25 or more points -- only Washington (10) and Chicago (10) have more -- and seven who have hit 30 -- only Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles (all with 8) have more. … Nashville is 19-1-0 when Joel Ward scores a point; the first loss came Saturday against San Jose. … The Islanders have scored just nine goals during their seven-game slide, the worst offensive performance in a seven-game stretch in franchise history.

Puck drop -- It's desperation time for both teams, neither of which is playing well. Don't expect a lot of offense -- the teams have combined for just 14 non-shootout goals in their last five meetings, and the Isles are in the middle of a historic offensive drought.

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