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Slumping Isles visit struggling Hurricanes

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (4-5-2) at HURRCANES (6-6-0)


Last 10 -- New York 4-5-1; Carolina 4-6-0

Season series -- The Eastern Conference rivals are meeting for the first of four times this season. They split four games last season, with the Isles winning the first two (one in a shootout, one in OT) and the Hurricanes taking the last two in regulation.

Big story -- Both teams have hit some potholes after good starts. The Islanders continue a stretch in which they play 12 of 15 on the road by bringing a four-game losing streak to Raleigh. The Hurricanes have dropped their last two and three of their last four, and have been shut out in their two games at the RBC Center this season. Both teams are coming off losses at Philadelphia -- the Isles were thumped 6-1 on Saturday and the 'Canes lost 3-2 on Monday.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Isles got off to a 4-1-2 start, but they've played poorly in losing the last four games -- including the 6-1 loss at Philadelphia, in which they were beaten in every way imaginable.

One area in which they struggled was goaltending, as Rick DiPietro continues to try to shake off the rust from nearly two seasons of injury-related inactivity.

"Until you get a chance to get back on the ice and redeem yourself, it eats at you," DiPietro said. "There's no time to rest. You've got to expect some peaks and valleys, but we've got to get back to winning games."

Hurricanes -- Rod Brind'Amour, where are you?

One reason the Hurricanes have struggled to score is basic -- they can't win faceoffs. Through 11 games, the 'Canes have won just 37.4 percent of their draws, by far the lowest percentage in the NHL. That would never have happened with Brind'Amour on the roster -- the former captain, who retired last spring, was one of the NHL's busiest and most successful centers in the faceoff circle, winning 58.8 percent last season.

Two of the three goals by Philadelphia were the result of lost faceoffs.

"You've just got to work at it," General Manager Jim Rutherford told the team's website. "(Tuomo) Ruutu is playing more games at center and he's getting adjusted, and (Brandon) Sutter and (Eric) Staal are keys that are playing against the other team's top lines for the most part. They've just got to work on it, and as they do they'll get better."

Who's hot -- With two goals in their last two games, no one on the Islanders is hot. … Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner had 2 goals and 2 assists in the Hurricanes' last four games.

Injury report -- The good news for the Islanders is that center Rob Schremp is set to make his season debut after missing the first 11 games with a back problem. The bad news is that defenseman Milan Jurcina has joined the NHL's version of M*A*S*H with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks. He joins two other regular blueliners, Mark Streit (shoulder surgery) and Andy MacDonald (broken hand) on the sidelines. The Isles waived forward Jon Sim and he's been sent to AHL Bridgeport. … Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen is listed as day-to-day after leaving Monday's game with an upper-body injury.

Stat pack -- The Islanders' biggest struggles have come while playing 5-on-5 -- they have been outscored 24-13, and their 0.54 goals to goals-against rate is next-to-last in the NHL. … Carolina centers Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter rank 90th and 92nd in winning percentage among the 92 centers who've taken enough draws to qualify.

Puck drop -- This figures to be a battle between two teams that don't score a lot, especially at even strength. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first goal at home this season, while the Islanders are trying to cope with a rash of injuries while figuring out their goaltending situation. With a game in Ottawa for a game Thursday, they figure to split the two games between DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson, who has been better than the former No. 1 overall pick despite a poorer won-lost record.

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