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St. Louis Blues vs. New York Islanders

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GAME: St. Louis Blues (29-26-9-2) at New York Islanders (30-24-10-3).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The St. Louis Blues are desperate for points. The New York Islanders are on the verge of putting themselves in the same position.

St. Louis will try to avoid matching a season-high eight-game winless streak when it faces the struggling Islanders for the first of two meetings between the teams in four days.

The Blues earned just their second point in five games under new coach Mike Kitchen with a 1-1 tie against visiting Edmonton on Thursday.

Defenseman Alexander Khavanov, activated earlier in the day after missing 15 games with a bruised ankle, scored his first goal in more than a year and Chris Osgood stopped 31 shots.

St. Louis is 0-3-2 since Kitchen replaced Joel Quenneville, scoring five goals in that span. The Blues, 0-4-2-1 since a 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Feb. 19, are four points behind Los Angeles for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

"We've got to score more than one goal to win," Kitchen said. "We're trying to get that one goal that can break the ice, and I think it might turn things around and loosen things up in the room. I know the guys are a little tight, but that's the position we've put ourselves in."

While the Blues are struggling offensively, Osgood has kept them in every game. The former Islander has allowed 12 goals in his last six starts, but is 0-4-2 in those games.

"In this situation, we're a pretty fragile team right now, and I have to play confident," Osgood said. "I feel in the last five games, I've played better than I did at the start of the season and I have no wins."

Saturday will be Osgood's first game against his former team. He spent 1{ seasons with the Islanders before being traded to St. Louis on March 11 for forward Justin Papineau.

New York remains in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but has been unable to strengthen its grip on the final playoff spot with one win in six games (1-2-2-1).

The Islanders, eight points ahead of Buffalo and Florida, continued to struggle on the road with a 6-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday.

New York coach Steve Stirling lamented his team's play down low.

"Far too soft in the paint," Stirling said, referring to the crease. "We aren't tough enough down there."

Trent Hunter and Mark Parrish scored third-period goals for the Islanders, one of the league's best home teams (21-9-3-1), but one of its worst on the road (9-15-7-2).

The Islanders and Blues meet again at St. Louis on Tuesday.

STANDINGS (through March 4): Blues - 69 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Central Division. Islanders - 73 points, 3rd place, 13 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Keith Tkachuk, 26 goals and 58 points; Doug Weight, 42 assists; Mike Danton, 141 PIM. Islanders - Hunter and Mariusz Czerkawski, 23 goals; Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Hunter, 46 points; Eric Cairns, 177 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 4): Blues - Power play: 17.2 percent (50 for 291), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (271 for 322), 16th. Islanders - Power play: 17.0 percent (45 for 264), 11th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (251 for 297), 12th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Osgood (22-22-7, 2 SO, 2.30 GAA); Reinhard Divis (3-3-1, 3.37). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (16-13-5, 3, 2.37); Garth Snow (14-14-5, 1, 2.76).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 16, 2003; Islanders 3-2, OT. At St. Louis, Kvasha scored with 3:01 left in overtime to lift New York.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 11-17-3-2 on the road; Islanders - 21-9-3-1 at home.


Associated Press
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