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Senators-Islanders Preview @NHL
Senators-Islanders Preview

GAME: Ottawa Senators (16-3-0) at New York Islanders (11-10-1).

TIME: Friday, 2 p.m. EST.

The Ottawa Senators have arguably been the best team in the NHL through the first two months of the season. New York Islanders center Jason Blake doesn't think there's any question about it.

The Senators look to continue their dominance over the Islanders when the teams meet at Nassau Coliseum.

Ottawa doesn't have the most points in the NHL because it has played a league-low 19 games, but at 16-3-0 it is tied with Detroit for the most wins.

In their first meeting this season with the Islanders on Nov. 5, the Senators scored three power-play goals in a 6-0 rout. Dominik Hasek stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and captain Daniel Alfredsson had two goals and an assist.

"They're the best team in the NHL by far," Blake said after the loss. "When you put Alfredsson, (Dany) Heatley and (Jason) Spezza out there on a power play, they're bound to cash in."

Since suffering their third loss of the season and second to the Hurricanes on Nov. 15, the Senators have rebounded to win three straight, including an emotional 5-3 victory at Carolina on Tuesday.

Right wing Chris Neil was informed of his mother's death in a car accident in Canada while at the team hotel following the morning skate. He left the team to fly home to be with family, with agent Todd Reynolds telling the Ottawa Sun that Neil was "devastated"

"It was the quietest bus I'd been in in a long time," Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said. "I don't think anyone knew what to do or say."

Jason Spezza scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Mike Fisher had a goal and two assists for the Senators, who won their fourth straight on the road and improved to 7-1 away from home.

"Before the game, we just said we wanted to play for Chris," said Fisher, Neil's best friend on the team. "He gives his heart and soul to this team. We're all feeling for him right now. We all want to play as hard as we can for him and his family.

"It was just a devastating afternoon for all of us."

Heatley had an assist in the win, making him the only NHL player to have a point in each of his team's games this season.

The Senators are 25-4-8 against the Islanders, including playoffs, since the start of the 1996-97 season.

The Islanders appeared headed for their fifth win in six games Saturday, but Buffalo scored the tying goal with 2:49 left in regulation and prevailed in the shootout, dropping New York to 4-1-1 in its last six.

Holding onto late leads has been a problem this season for the Islanders.

"Until I can find someone who really wants to step it up in those roles, we're going to struggle on some of those nights," coach Steve Stirling said. "We don't have enough of those guys right now."

STANDINGS (through Nov. 24): Senators - 32 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Islanders - 23 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Alfredsson, 18 goals and 35 points; Spezza, 26 assists; Brian McGrattan, 53 PIM. Islanders - Miroslav Satan, 12 goals; Alexei Zhitnik, 15 assists; Alexei Yashin, 24 points; Janne Niinimaa and Zhitnik, 48 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 24): Senators - Power play: 19.5 percent (24 for 123), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (107 for 125), 4th. Islanders - Power play: 16.5 percent (23 for 139), 21st. Penalty killing: 83.9 percent (131 for 156), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Hasek (11-3-0, 3 SO, 1.91 GAA); Ray Emery (5-0-0, 2.78). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (8-8-1, 3.16); Garth Snow (3-2-0, 3.53).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 5; Senators, 6-0. At Ottawa, the Senators scored three power-play goals and Alfredsson added a short-handed goal as the Senators coasted.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 7-1-0 on the road; Islanders - 5-3-1 at home.

Associated Press

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