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Something's got to give for Isles, Avs

by Brian Compton
ISLANDERS (4-6-2) at AVALANCHE (7-7-1)


Last 10: New York 3-5-2; Colorado 3-6-1.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the teams. They faced each other on Jan. 8, when the Islanders earned a 4-3 overtime victory at the Pepsi Center. John Tavares had the game-winner at 3:52 of the extra session.

Big Story: They'll enter Thursday's action with just one victory in 26 days, but the Islanders insist their month-long struggles in no way resemble what transpired at this time last year. New York endured a 14-game winless streak (0-11-3) from Oct. 23-Nov.24 -- a freefall that cost Scott Gordon his job and the Isles any realistic shot at qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"The whole attitude is different and the culture is changing in our locker room," Tavares said. "Losing is not something we are happy with. It's unacceptable and we definitely feel going into every game that we have a great opportunity to win and we can compete with any team in the League.

"That's the difference for us -- understanding that we know we are a good hockey team. We can definitely, if we sharpen up in some areas, be a real competitive team in this League and shock a lot of people."
Team Scope:

Islanders: The main reason for the Isles' inconsistent play is their lack of secondary scoring. Kyle Okposo, who signed a five-year extension this summer, has no goals in the team's first 12 games. Josh Bailey, the club's first-round pick in 2008, has just 1 assist and 7 shots on goal. Blake Comeau, who had 24 goals last season, has yet to register a point. He has 12 shots on goal in 10 games. Marty Reasoner, who was supposed to be an upgrade over Zenon Kenopka as the fourth-line center, has yet to score.

Overall, the Isles have scored 25 goals in the first 12 games. Only the 1999-2000 club (24 goals in 12 games) scored fewer. That team, coached by Butch Goring, finished the season with 58 points.

"We have the type of team that we need all 20 guys going and all 20 guys with the right attitude, the bench being positive, to win games," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We aren't a team that can have passengers."

Avalanche: Colorado started the season strong by going 6-2-0 in its first 8 games, but the Avs have struggled as of late. Their winless streak reached 4 games Tuesday night with a 5-2 loss at Detroit. Johan Franzen had a hat trick for the Wings. Colorado is 1-5-1 overall in its last seven contests.

"There's nothing we can do about it," Avs coach Joe Sacco said after his club's latest defeat. "We've put ourselves in this position. We've just got to get ready for Thursday. You've got to dig in. What are you going to do? You can't sit here and make excuses. We know we can play better, but we've got to do it for 60 minutes. That's the key."

Who's Hot: Now skating on a line with Tavares, Isles forward Michael Grabner had a goal and an assist in Monday's 6-2 loss at Boston. … Avs center Matt Duchene has 3 goals and 3 assists in the last three games.

Injury Report: Avs center Peter Mueller (concussion) was in full-practice mode Wednesday and could play against the Isles, according to Sacco. Mueller will participate in the morning skate and a decision will be made afterwards. Mark Olver (head) and Brandon Yip (broken forearm) are out indefinitely.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time and I'll see how I feel tomorrow," Mueller said Wednesday.  "Everything has been going smoothly.  The coaching staff and the medical staff have been behind me 110 percent.  We're not putting a significant date on it.  We're just seeing how every day goes.  And as of right now, things are going smoothly. I'm happy to be out there."

Stat Pack: With Monday's loss at Boston, the Isles fell to 0-3-1 on the road. They are 0-6-1 on the road dating back to last season. … Semyon Varlamov made his sixth consecutive start for the Avs on Tuesday and was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 16 shots.

Puck Drop: "You look around the room, guys enjoy being here and the guys really want to work for one another, for this team and for the Islanders. That itself is culture and that's an important thing to have on a team. It's definitely different from last year and it's fun to be a part of the change here. It's an exciting time here on Long Island." -- Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic

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