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Surging Predators begin trip by visiting Long Island

by John Kreiser

PREDATORS (25-15-4) at ISLANDERS (16-20-6)


Last 10: Nashville 7-3-0; New York 5-5-0

Season Series: It's the only meeting of the season between the teams, who haven't seen each other since the Predators won 5-0 at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 13, 2010.

Big Story : The Predators begin a quick three-games-in-four-days trip with their first visit to the Nassau Coliseum in nearly three years. Nashville comes to Long Island with a four-game winning streak after beating Philadelphia 4-2 at home on Saturday. The Islanders enter the finale of a four-game homestand with a 2-1-0 mark after beating Buffalo 4-2 on Saturday.

Team Scope:

Predators: The Preds have won seven of their last eight, and they've been doing it with defense. Nashville limited the high-scoring Flyers to just two goals on Saturday night, and the Preds have surrendered just 16 goals during their hot streak.

"Our overall team defense is much better than it has been," coach Barry Trotz said. "(During) the weak stretch we had poor defense, so we're playing much better."

Islanders: The Isles top line, led by John Tavares, has been one of the hottest trios in the NHL. But the best news for coach Jack Capuano was the go-ahead goal by Michael Grabner, who broke a 2-2 tie with just over three minutes to play on Saturday night. Grabner added an empty-netter, giving him three goals in three games -- much-needed production for a team that has gotten little offense from its bottom three lines.

Grabner has been getting plenty of chances recently but not finishing -- he rang the crossbar on the shift before his go-ahead goal.

"Grabs works extremely hard every night and he gets his chances," Capuano said. "It's good to see him bury a couple."

Who's Hot: Nashville's Martin Erat had a goal and an assist on Saturday and has had two points in three of his last four games. … Isles center John Tavares, who's on his way to the All-Star Game, had two assists against Buffalo to extend his points streak to eight games.

Injury Report: Nashville placed forward Jerred Smithson on IR with a lower-body injury. Rookie forward Craig Smith missed Saturday's game with the flu. … The Islanders are without starting goaltender Al Montoya and defenseman Mike Mottau due to concussions. Center Marty Reasoner is out with a broken right hand. Goaltender Rick DiPietro will have sports hernia surgery this week and is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Stat Pack: Nashville is 6-0-2 in its last eight games against the Islanders, who haven't beaten the Predators in regulation since winning 5-2 in Nashville on April 11, 2002.

Puck Drop: Evgeni Nabokov won 293 games in a decade with San Jose, left to play in Russia, was signed by Detroit a year ago, claimed by the Islanders after injuries decimated their goaltending corps, decided not to play and then came to camp with New York last fall as part of a three-headed goaltending corps. With Montoya and DiPietro sidelined, he's played 11 games in a row, and made 23 saves on Saturday to become only the 26th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300-win mark,

"When I went to Russia, I didn't know how many wins I have," he said after reaching the milestone. "Someone told me when I came back this summer that I needed seven more for 300 … It's a big number. I hope there will be more to come."

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