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HURRICANES (2-4-1) at ISLANDERS (0-3-3)
Season series -- It's the first meeting of the season between the two. Carolina swept all four games last season, outscoring the Islanders 24-9. The Hurricanes have won four in a row at the Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders are 0-2-1 this season.
Big story -- Big things were expected of the Hurricanes after they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring, but Carolina has yet to deliver. The 'Canes have scored 14 goals in seven games -- and half of those came in a 7-2 win over Florida on Oct. 9. Since then, they've lost three games and scored only four goals.
But things are even worse on the Island, where the performance of No. 1 draft pick John Tavares (3-4-7) hasn't been nearly enough to give last season's 30th-place team a boost. The Islanders struggle to score (13 goals in six games) -- but struggle even more in their own zone. They allowed 10 goals in losing at Buffalo on Friday and at home to San Jose on Saturday.
Hurricanes -- It's hard to believe that a team with Eric Staal as its No. 1 center is struggling to score, but that's been the case with the 'Canes all season -- especially on the road. Carolina generated little in a 2-0 loss at New Jersey on Saturday and is 0-3-0 away from the RBCCenter this season while being outscored 14-4. Staal has just two goals in seven games.
"Our power play and our five-on-five offensive game are suffering from the exact same issues. We're slow with what we do," coach Paul Maurice told the team's Web site. "A puck to the net is not the first mindset, and that's what we've got to do."
Islanders -- With almost all of their offense coming from the line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, coach Scott Gordon reportedly has opted to move Okposo onto a line with center Frans Nielsen, who's returning from preseason knee surgery. That would create a vacancy for Doug Weight to play wing with Tavares and Moulson. Weight has been bothered with groin problems but worked well with Tavares in training camp. Nielsen and Okposo also had good chemistry last season.
The Islanders have played well in spurts during games -- they outshot San Jose 19-8 in the first period on Saturday and led 1-0 at intermission -- but have yet to put together a complete game.
"They, after the first period, came out and were a lot more disciplined with getting back to their zone and putting back-pressure on the puck," coach Scott Gordon said. "Our response to that was to not get pucks to the net."
Who's hot -- Moulson, signed as a free agent during the summer, has scored goals in his last three games and leads the team with four. He and Tavares are tops on the Isles with seven points. Okposo has a point in all six games. Carolina goaltender Cam Ward allowed just one goal at New Jersey and is 9-2-0 lifetime against the Islanders.
Injury report -- The Isles expect Nielsen to be in the lineup for the first time this season. Goaltender Rick DiPietro is starting to practice, but there's no ETA for his return from knee surgery. The 'Canes got defenseman Joni Pitkanen (knee) back on Saturday -- he played 28:15, partly because Aaron Ward didn't play in the last two periods, reportedly due to an upper-body injury.
Stat pack -- The 2-0 loss at New Jersey was the second time this season the 'Canes have been shut out this season. They were blanked just once last season. Part of the reason is a power outage on the power play -- Carolina is just 4-for-36 (11.1 percent), next-to-last in the NHL.
Puck drop -- It figures to be a night to remember for Carolina's Ray Whitney, who's in line to play his 1,000th NHL game. It could be a good one, too -- Whitney was 1-5-6 against the Islanders last season.
"It's a big milestone for a guy who was told a few times I wasn't supposed to play in this league, especially not this long," the second draft pick in the history of the San Jose Sharks told Carolina's Web site.
--John Kreiser, NHL.com