Isles aim to get on track against Panthers

( – The New York Islanders will try to avoid matching their
longest losing streak of the season on Tuesday when the Metropolitan Division
leaders host the Florida Panthers from Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders hold a one-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins for first
place the Metro, but Jack Capuano’s club has failed to gain a point over its
last two games, dropping a 5-2 home decision Thursday against Boston before
falling 4-1 Saturday in Detroit.

New York has lost three straight games only twice this season and both times
the Isles dropped all three in regulation. The last occurrence was from Dec.

The Islanders only managed to get one shot past Detroit’s Petr Mrazek on
Saturday, with Lubomir Visnovsky providing the lone tally for the visitors.
Backup goaltender Chad Johnson allowed all four goals on just 19 shots in the

“I didn’t see the grit and determination that you’re going to need in the
second half of the season,” said New York head coach Jack Capuano. “That’s a
little disturbing to see from my perspective.”

Jaroslav Halak is expected to be back in net tonight for the Isles. New York’s
No. 1 goaltender owns superb career numbers against the Panthers, going 9-1-0
with a 1.78 goals against average in this matchup.

New York is 17-5-0 as the host this season and had won four straight on Long
Island before losing to Boston on Thursday. After tonight, the Isles will
embark on a three-game road trip, beginning with Thursday’s game in

Florida, meanwhile, saw its playoff hopes take another hit on Monday, as it
lost for the seventh time in eight games with a 6-3 road loss to the New York

The Panthers, who have lost two straight, are eight points behind the
Washington Capitals for the last playoff spot in the East.

Florida rallied from down 3-1 against the Rangers to even the score by the end
of 40 minutes, but New York scored three unanswered in the third period to
take control of the game.

Aleksander Barkov, Dave Bolland and Brandon Pirri tallied for the Panthers.
Roberto Luongo surrendered five goals on 37 shots but stopped a Carl Hagelin
penalty shot late in the contest.

“It doesn’t feel like the end of the year,” said Bolland, when it was
suggested these losses push the Panthers out of the playoff picture. “It’s no
fun losing but it’s not the end of the year. There’s always another game. We
have another one [Tuesday] and we’ll be ready to play.”

Florida backup goalie Al Montoya could get the call in net tonight. The former
Islander is 2-0 with a 2.95 goals against average against his former team.

The Panthers are completing a three-game road trip tonight and own a 11-9-6
record as the guest.

The Isles have claimed two straight and four of the last six meetings with the
Panthers. Florida has lost three of its past four trips to the Coliseum.