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Rare Ducks-Isles meeting a must-have for both sides

by John Kreiser
ISLANDERS (29-32-9) at DUCKS (32-29-8)

Last 10 -- New York 5-4-1; Anaheim 4-5-1

Season series -- Pardon these teams if they're unfamiliar with each other. This is their only meeting of the season, and they haven't seen each other since last Jan. 21, when the Ducks lost 2-1 on Long Island despite outshooting the Isles 40-14. New York hasn't been to the Honda Center since winning 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 11, 2006.

Big story -- Both teams still have flickering hopes of making the playoffs. The Islanders are looking for their fourth consecutive win after a stunning 5-2 victory in Vancouver on Tuesday night, a game that saw rookie John Tavares score twice and set up the other three goals. Anaheim has beaten the two best teams in the West, San Jose and Chicago, but those wins came after the Ducks lost five in a row to severely damage their playoff hopes.

Team Scope:

Islanders --
Things are a lot brighter on the Island than they were a week ago, when New York reached the weekend mired in a losing streak that had dropped it to 14th in the East and 28th in the overall standings. Wins over New Jersey and Toronto at home and at Vancouver on Tuesday have the Isles in 13th -- but just seven points behind eighth-place Boston. With the Bruins and most of their pursuers struggling, the Isles aren't out of the race yet -- though time is running out.

Ducks --
The Ducks, still eight points out of a playoff berth in the West with 13 games remaining, will have to make their push without defenseman James Wisniewski, who was suspended by the NHL on Thursday for his hit to the head area on Chicago's Brent Seabrook the night before. Wisniewski has 3 goals, 27 points and plays well over 20 minutes a game; his absence figures to leave a big hole on the Ducks' blue line.

"He’s a 20-some minute guy," GM Bob Murray said after the suspension was announced. "Obviously, it’s an awful blow to the hockey team."

Who's hot -- Matt Moulson, a minor-league free-agent signing, has scored three times in the last four games and leads the Isles with 26 goals. … Anaheim's Corey Perry has 15 points in his last 14 games. Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller has stopped 96 of the last 101 shots he's faced.

Injury report --
The Isles got forward Trent Hunter back on Tuesday, but are still without goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee). … Anaheim's top center, Ryan Getzlaf, is still battling a sore ankle and is day-to-day. Teemu Selanne is playing despite an injured left shoulder.

Stat pack --
Tavares' five-point night made him the sixth Islanders rookie to accomplish that feat but the first since Mikko Makela in 1985-86. … New York has scored a League-low 40 goals in the third period and has been outscored by 36 in the final 20 minutes. … Selanne needs one goal to become the 17th player in NHL history to reach the 600-goal mark.

Puck drop --
This is a battle between two teams unfamiliar with each other -- but very familiar with the fact that they need every point they can get to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. It will be interesting to see if Tavares can build on his career night.

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