(7:30 p.m. ET, TV: FSN NY (ch.72) | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) It's back to Canada one final time during the regular season for the Islanders when they take on Saku Koivu and the Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre.
The Islanders begin a crucial four-game road trip with contests against four teams either in playoff position or in the post-season hunt. Following the game against Montreal, the Islanders play their final Canadian team on the road, in Ottawa, before traveling down to Florida to take on the sixth-place Lightning and the Florida Panthers, who have rejuvenated their playoff hopes since the trade deadline.
After two setbacks against the Rangers last week, the Islanders returned to their winning ways by defeating the Washington Capitals for the second time in a week on Saturday. The Islanders used two goals by Jason Blake, as well as, tallies from Mike Sillinger, Andy Hilbert and Marc-Andre Bergeron to easily skate past the Capitals 5-2. Ryan Smyth and Randy Robitaille each contributed with two assists.
Rick DiPietro earned the win stopping 32 of 34 shots, giving him his career-tying 30th win of the season. He is the first Islanders goaltender to record 30 wins in two seasons. DiPietro now has his eyes set on 32 wins a franchise record held by Billy Smith and Chris Osgood. It was also DiPietro's 17th consecutive start and 200th of his career.
Other milestones in the game included Brendan Witt's 100th career point and Miroslav Satan's 300th consecutive game played.
The Islanders won't be worrying about milestones tonight when they take on a dangerous, but fading Montreal team. Montreal ranks 11th in the Eastern Conference, but is falling fast. Due to injuries and sub-par goaltending, the Canadiens went a dismal 5-9-1 in the month of February and have lost four of their previous five games.
The team is almost completely healthy now that Alexei Kovalev, Chris Higgins and Steve Begin have returned to the lineup. But with starting netminder Cristobal Huet out for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury, the Montreal coaching staff has had to rely on David Aebischer and rookie Jaroslav Halak in goal. After earning wins in his first three starts, Halak proceeded to lose his next four, forcing the Montreal brass to look to Aebischer, who has won only two of his six previous starts.
If there's one thing the Canadiens haven't had to worry about all season, it's their power play. They rank first in the league, converting at 22.4% rate. The catalyst behind their man-advantage success is hard-shooting blueliner, Sheldon Souray, who leads the team in goals (23), power play goals (16) and power play assists (24). Michael Ryder has also chipped in with 14 power play goals, while Saku Koivu has ten.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on FSN NY.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR FSN NY ON LONG ISLAND
FSN NY: 72
FSN NY: 624
FSN NY: 413
FSN NY: 725
CAREER NHL MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
- Viktor Kozlov is a goal away from tying his career-high of 22.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron is two games away from 200.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron is two points away from 100.
- Jason Blake is six games away from 500.
- Mike Sillinger is eight assists away from 300.
DP BECOMES 1ST NYI GOALIE TO GET TWO 30 WIN SEASONS
Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro became the first Islanders goaltender to record two 30 win seasons in franchise history with his win on Saturday, March 10 versus Washington. DiPietro recorded 30 wins last season, then becoming only the third goaltender in franchise history to reach that plateau. His next win will set a new career-high and the win after that will tie Billy Smith (1981-82) and Chris Osgood (2001-02) for the franchise record of 32 wins in a single-season.
Miroslav Satan has increased his consecutive games played streak to a career-high 300 games (total before tonight's game). In 2005-06, Satan was one of three Islanders to play in all 82 games and has appeared in every game over the last two seasons & the last 68 in 2002-03 (Ëœ02-03 to Ëœ03-04 w/ Buffalo).
Satan's current streak, however, has seen its share of adversity. Last season, the sniper almost missed the Islanders' March 2, 2006 game vs. New Jersey because of the birth of his first child. He was in Buffalo the night before and bad weather almost kept him grounded. Before his current streak, Satan played in 256 consecutive games (which at the time was the fourth longest active streak in NHL) before missing three games with an injury.
Islanders 78 points, 3rd place, Atlantic Division
Montreal - 74 points, 4th place, Northeast Division
Islanders Jason Blake, 35 goals, 61 points; Mike Sillinger, 29 assists; Brendan Witt, 115 PIM.
Montreal Sheldon Souray, 23 goals; Saku Koivu, 39 assists, 57 points; Souray, 127 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 16.7 percent. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent
Montreal - Power play: 22.4 percent. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent
Islanders Rick DiPietro (30-19-7, 2.60 GAA, .918 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-5-3, 2.90, .911)
Montreal David Aebischer (12-11-3, 3.11, .903); Jaroslav Halak (3-4-0, 3.71, .874); Michael Leighton (2-2-0, 3.93, .875)
Montreal: 2 pts Islanders: 4 pts.
March 24, 2007 at the Nassau Coliseum: 3-2 Islanders win
Montreal 19-12-3 at home
Islanders 15-13-3 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
44 Freddy Meyer
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
15 Jeff Tambellini
18 Mike Sillinger
20 Richard Zednik
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
30 David Aebischer
41 Jaroslav Halak
6 Janne Niinimaa
8 Mike Komisarek
25 Mathieu Dandenault
26 Josh Gorges
32 Mark Streit
44 Sheldon Souray
51 Francis Bouillon
79 Andrei Markov
11 Saku Koivu
14 Radek Bonk
15 Sergei Samsonov
20 Mike Johnson
21 Chris Higgins
22 Steve Begin
27 Alexei Kovalev
35 Tomas Plekanec
40 Maxim Lapierre
42 Alexander Perezhogin
46 Andrei Kostitsyn
57 Garth Murray
73 Michael Ryder
84 Guillaume Latendresse