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Thrashers-Islanders Preview

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On Friday, the Atlanta Thrashers played well for nearly 60 minutes while the New York Islanders were good for about three.

Both teams look to rebound Saturday when they meet at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the second time this season.

Atlanta (18-9-6) appeared on its way to snapping a three-game losing streak Friday with a 2-1 lead in the final minute against visiting Washington. Alexander Ovechkin, however, tied the score with 30 seconds left in regulation and added his third goal of the game 6 seconds into overtime.

Jean-Pierre Vigier staked the Thrashers to a 2-1 lead with less than six minutes left, but it was his delay of game penalty that set up Ovechkin's power-play goal late in regulation.

"We won a game in Toronto because of a penalty like that, and now we lost one," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "It's a game of mistakes and no one does it on purpose. It's a real tough loss to digest because I felt that we could not have played better in the third period."

It a matchup of two of the game's most exciting players, Ovechkin outshined Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, who was limited to one assist. Kovalchuk, among the league leaders with 18 goals, hasn't scored in four straight games, his longest drought since he went the first five this season without a goal.

The Islanders (15-12-3) have held the Russian star in check, limiting him to one goal in the past four meetings.

New York, playing its first game in six days, started poorly Friday at Pittsburgh in a 7-4 loss, getting outshot 18-7 and trailing 3-1 after the first period.

"We had been playing a lot of games in a short amount of time, so it's always good to have a couple days off," left wing Jason Blake said. "Five days off is a long time, but it's not an excuse we can use for tonight."

The Islanders scored three times within a 2:21 span of the third period, but were unable to complete the comeback, losing for the third time in four games.

"You've got to forget about it," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "There are lots of games. Whether we lost 15-1 or 3-2, we still lost."

Rick DiPietro allowed five goals on 29 shots in the first 40 minutes before he was replaced at the start of the third by Mike Dunham.

DiPietro is 3-3 and a tie with a 2.41 goals-against average in seven career starts against Atlanta. Dunham, who spent last season with the Thrashers, has only one win in his last six starts (1-3-2) overall.

Friday's loss dropped New York to 3-5-0 without star center Alexei Yashin in the lineup. Yashin, second on the team with 28 points, has practiced with the team the last two days and could return from a sprained knee for this contest.

"I felt fine. It takes time to get back in condition," Yashin said Wednesday. "Being away from hockey, and now getting back, you have to adjust. It's a slow process, but hopefully it won't take long."

Yashin had three goals and five assists in a five-game points streak before being injured in New York's 4-1 win on Nov. 25.

Getting their best offensive player back should help the Islanders' struggling power play which has converted on only seven of 34 chances in Yashin's absence.

The Thrashers posted a 4-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 4, ending a three-game losing streak on Long Island.

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