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Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:46 AM

Associated Press

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Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
Panthers-Islanders Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (17-21-11-3) at New York Islanders (24-20-5-2).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Islanders don't have to wait any longer for Rick DiPietro to mature into a No. 1 goaltender.

DiPietro, enjoying the best stretch of his career, will try to help the Islanders extend their unbeaten streak against the Florida Panthers to eight when the teams meet at Nassau Coliseum.

DiPietro, the top overall pick in the 2000 draft, struggled to make an impact in his first two NHL seasons, compiling a 5-20-3 record with a 3.30 goals-against average.

After splitting time with veteran Garth Snow for most of this season, DiPietro has seized the starting job with a 4-1-1 record in his past six starts. In those six games, DiPietro has stopped 178 of 188 shots for a .946 save percentage.

DiPietro had another strong game Thursday in his fourth straight start, stopping 36 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss at Boston.

New York's Jason Blake turned the puck over in the extra period, allowing Glen Murray to beat DiPietro on a breakaway at 2:25 for the victory.

"Our hockey club played well tonight, good enough to win," Blake said. "It's my fault. I turned the puck over in a crucial time of the game and it cost us."

Despite missing three of their top forwards - centers Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca and right wing Mark Parrish - the Islanders are holding onto eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Yashin and Parrish are not expected back until March, while Peca is day-to-day with a strained chest muscle.

The Islanders, who have earned at least a point in seven of eight games (4-1-2-1), are 4-0-3 in their last seven meetings with the Panthers.

Florida is one of several teams chasing the Islanders for the final playoff spot in the East, but also trails Atlanta, the New York Rangers and Buffalo.

Another outstanding performance by goalie Roberto Luongo helped the Panthers gain a point with a 3-3 tie against visiting Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Luongo stopped 44 shots to reach the 40-save mark for the sixth time in his last 13 games.

Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock had high praise for Luongo, who will make his first All-Star appearance next month.

"I think everybody's talking about MVP in the league - to me, I think this guy is MVP of the league," Hitchcock said. "Luongo is a guy who can steal games, gets points maybe when they don't deserve them, and he's approaching where at times he's intimidating."

Luongo, however, has struggled against the Islanders - the team that drafted him in 1997. He is 2-7-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average in 13 games against them.

2003-2004 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 17 '04 NYI 4 at FLA 6 M. Samuelsson
Jan 31 '04 FLA 2 at NYI 4 J. Blake
Nov 19 '03 NYI 4 at FLA 1 M. Timander
Oct 18 '03 FLA 1 at NYI 2 O. Kvasha is the official Web site of the New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and are trademarks of New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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