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Thrashers seek third straight win against Isles

by Brian Compton
ISLANDERS (15-27-7) at THRASHERS (24-19-9)


Last 10: New York 2-7-1; Atlanta 3-4-3.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. Atlanta is seeking its third straight win against the Isles, as it most recently earned a 5-4 victory on Dec. 11 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Big Story: There haven't been too many bright spots for the Islanders this season, but they had one on Saturday night when forward Michael Grabner won the Fastest Skater event at the Honda SuperSkills competition at the RBC Center.

Grabner, a waiver claim by the Islanders in October, has been highly impressive as of late. He now ranks third on the club with 15 goals. Six of those goals have been scored in the last eight games.

"It's not a skill everyone has, so I'm lucky, I guess," Grabner said of his speed. I was hoping I would be in the event. That's what my game is based on -- speed. So I was excited when heard I was in the event."

Team Scope:

Islanders: Twenty points separate New York from a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which makes the chances of the club's season extending beyond April 9 pretty slim. But with so many jobs on the line, it's important the team competes on a nightly basis during the second half of the season.

"The microscope's on a lot of people," interim coach Jack Capuano told Newsday. "It's a great opportunity for a lot of guys, including the coaching staff."

Thrashers: Dustin Byfuglien, who may very well be a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman when all is said and done, made his presence felt this weekend during the All-Star festivities. He scored a goal in his first All-Star Game and played a game-high 22:18.

"I guess some things just don't change," Byfuglien said of his extended shifts. "I definitely had some long ones out there where I got caught up. I got some grief between periods about it. I started laughing and was huffing and puffing when I came in. It was all good."

Who's Hot: Isles forward Matt Moulson, who recently signed a three-year extension with the club, has three goals in his last four games. … Thrashers center Nik Antropov has two goals in his last three games and five points in six contests.
Injury Report: New York will be without Mark Streit (shoulder), Trent Hunter (knee), Milan Jurcina (upper body), Doug Weight (back), Mark Eaton (hip), Mike Mottau (hip) and Nathan Lawson (knee). … The Thrashers are missing Tobias Enstrom (hand), Chris Mason (knee) and Jim Slater (concussion). Evander Kane (upper body) is day-to-day.

Stat Pack: Prior to the All-Star break, the Thrashers earned a 1-0 victory against the Washington Capitals at Philips Arena last Wednesday. Atlanta is 4-1-1 against Washington this season and has outscored the Caps 9-1 over the last three games.

Puck Drop: "Everybody's kind of relieved that it's been resolved and Matt's going to be here. I think we know who's going to be here now, there's no uncertainty, and we want to be a team that's going to battle it out to the end. We're not just going to ride this thing out to April." -- Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald to Newsday regarding Matt Moulson's three-year contract
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