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Surging Islanders return home to face Jets

by Brian Compton

JETS (18-17-2) at ISLANDERS (17-16-3)


Last 10: Winnipeg 4-6-0; New York 6-4-0

Season Series: This is the second of three meetings. The Jets earned a 5-4 overtime victory against the Islanders on Jan. 27 at the MTS Centre.

Big Story: Winnipeg is fighting to stay atop the Southeast Division, while New York is in a heated battle with several teams to qualify for its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007.

Team Scope:

Jets: Winnipeg still remains in first place in the Southeast with 38 points, but it’s not exactly a comfortable lead. The Jets are four points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, but the latter has played three fewer games. The Washington Capitals also have 34 points and have two games in hand on Winnipeg.

The Jets failed to secure any points Monday, when they suffered a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Winnipeg has scored only three goals in its past three games – a trend that needs to change Tuesday against the Islanders.

“Every team is feeling that they still got a chance to get in the playoffs,” Jets center Olli Jokinen said after Monday’s defeat. “For us now as a team, we have to make decisions if we want to be there or not. We’ve got 11 games to go. We still control our own fate. At the same time, we can’t wait for the last five games to make a push. We have to find a way to win tomorrow. It’s a huge game.”

Islanders: A 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon was the only blemish on New York’s four-game road trip, as it finished 3-1-0 with Monday’s 3-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic and John Tavares all scored for the Islanders, while Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves to help them keep pace with the eighth-place Rangers and move within two points of No. 7 New Jersey.

"This is why you play … we want to make a serious push here and make the playoffs," Bailey said. "But we're still going to take it one day at a time. There are so many teams in the hunt, so we just have to keep finding ways to win."

Anders Lee, the Isles’ sixth-round pick (No. 152) from the 2009 NHL Draft, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the club Monday and could make his NHL debut against the Jets. He had 116 points (61 goals, 55 assists) in three collegiate seasons for Notre Dame and served as the team’s captain this season.

Who's hot: Nik Antropov has two goals in the past four games for Winnipeg. … Bailey has scored twice in the past four for New York, while Tavares has four goals in the past five.

Injury report: Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome was hit near his eye with an errant stick during Monday’s game and did not return. They’re already without Mark Stuart, (undisclosed) who has not played since March 21. Defenseman Zach Redmond (leg) and forwards Anthony Peluso (hand), Jim Slater (upper body) and James Wright (upper body) are on injured reserve. … The Islanders will be without defenseman Brian Strait (ankle) and forward David Ullstrom (groin). Defenseman Joe Finley was also placed on injures reserve Monday to make room for Lee on the Isles’ roster.

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