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For Canes, Islanders no Easy Game

Friday, 03.18.2011 / 11:59 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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For Canes, Islanders no Easy Game
The Canes will seemingly get a reprieve the back-to-back dogfights against fellow playoff bubble teams they experienced earlier this week, but as they well know, breaks are few and far between at this time of year.

Paul Branecky
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The New York Islanders, who visit the RBC Center Friday night, have long been eliminated from serious postseason contention. At 27-33-11, their record isn’t terribly intimidating, nor is their status as the 14th-place team in the Eastern Conference.

However, their fortunes have changed in the second half. Since Dec. 15, they’ve posted a 22-15-6 record, which marks the third-best run in the Eastern Conference behind just Boston and Washington. That includes a seven-game points streak (4-0-3) that was snapped in their most recent game, a 6-3 loss to the cross-town Rangers on Tuesday.

Though winning their final 11 games still wouldn’t give them a very good shot at the playoffs due to their 5-18-5 start to the campaign, they now seem to be playing much better without pressure.

“Whenever a team goes on a run, you want to try to get a feel for what they’re doing,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, whose team has a chance to tie the idle Buffalo Sabres for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. “They’ve got lots of confidence, lots of speed and lots of hand skills.

“When they get into the situation they’re in, there’s really no repercussions for certain things that happen on the ice, and it frees those skill guys to do what they can do, and they certainly have some skill.”

The Islanders are led by 2008 first-overall draft choice John Tavares, who has started to come into his own with 60 points in 68 games. They also boast 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and rookie Michael Grabner, who trails the Canes’ Jeff Skinner by 8 points in the freshman scoring race.

Those players, along with expected starting goaltender Al Montoya, the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft that may be turning a corner his career after posting a .920 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average in 14 NHL games this season, will give the Hurricanes more to worry about than earlier in the season.

”It’s the time of the schedule more than anything else,” said Maurice of his team’s two previous wins against the Islanders in 2010-11. “I think we saw them injured early and they were a different-looking team. Their confidence level is different now than it was when we played them. We’ll get all we can handle.”

The Hurricanes did not take part in line rushes at the morning skate, leaving starting units up in the air until warm-ups tonight. During Wednesday’s loss to Toronto, several in-game changes were made, including Drayson Bowman promoted to Eric Staal’s left wing and Tuomo Ruutu moving from right wing back to center.

Those changes could continue tonight.

“We run Staal in big minutes and you may see other people play with him just to back their minutes off,” said Maurice. “As much movement as we have, there’s really only three or four moves that we make, and it’s the wings with Staal and then we rotate that third-line center position.”

Maurice added that he would have no changes to his overall lineup, as Troy Bodie is expected to serve as a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game. Jamie McBain remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.


SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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