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Surging Canadiens host slumping Islanders

by Arpon Basu

ISLANDERS (6-9-1) at CANADIENS (11-4-1)


Last 10: Islanders 3-7-0, Montreal 7-2-1.

Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the clubs. Both teams won twice last season.

Big story: It's a meeting of two teams going in opposite directions. The Islanders have lost two in a row and seven of their past nine overall, while the Canadiens are riding a five-game winning streak.

Team scope:

Islanders: The Islanders arrived in Montreal on Wednesday and enjoyed a day off after a 3-1 loss at the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. They sit 29th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.56) and their points percentage of .406 has them ranked 26th in the League.

Though general manager Garth Snow is not happy with what he's seen from his club, he made it clear Wednesday in an interview with Newsday that help would not be coming in the form of a trade or even a minor-league call-up

So the players under coach Jack Capuano now will need to figure out a way to right the ship themselves.

"The group we have [on the Islanders] has won games this year and looked good doing it at times," Snow told Newsday's Arthur Staple. "If we call someone up, it'll be based on what we need at that position at a given time. We made some waiver claims at the start of the season to bolster our depth and we think that's helped with the development of our prospects in Bridgeport."

Canadiens: Coach Michel Therrien also gave his players Wednesday off, but he had good reason to coming off the club's fifth straight win Tuesday.

The 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden cemented Montreal's status as one of the NHL's top defensive clubs. The Canadiens have allowed two goals in their past four games, with each of their goalies playing two apiece. They rank fourth in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals for and against ratio (1.40), shots against per game (26.6) and goals against per game (2.12).

Also, after showing a tendency to crumble in the third period earlier in the season, allowing 14 goals in the final period through their first 12 games and scoring six, the Canadiens have scored seven times and allowed none in the final 20 minutes over their past four contests.

Who's hot: For the Islanders, just about the entire team has struggled offensively with one goal in the past two games. But prior to that, John Tavares had seven goals and two assists in his previous five games, and Matt Moulson had three goals and four assists in his previous three games. … For the Canadiens, linemates Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust each have points in their past two games, including hooking up for the game-winner against the Rangers.

Injury report: The Islanders put defenseman Brian Strait (ankle) on injured reserve, where he joins fellow defenseman Matt Carkner. Radek Martinek was activated from the injured list two games ago but still has not played. … Canadiens rookie forward Brendan Gallagher suffered a concussion Saturday and missed the past two games, and center Petteri Nokelainen (back), a former Islander, is on injured reserve.

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