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ISLANDERS (4-5-3) at SENATORS (4-6-2)
TV: MSG PLUS, SNET-E
Last 10: New York 3-5-2; Ottawa 3-6-1
Season series: They'll meet this one time and not again until a home-and-home the first week in April. The Ottawa Senators have taken all available points from the New York Islanders save one in each of the past two seasons, an Islanders overtime win and a shootout win preventing sweeps.
Big story: Each team finds itself in similar straits, taking a solid step forward only to suffer frustrating setbacks. The Islanders' road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday night could not have been scripted better, subsequent losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers the worst possible way to undo such success. The Senators scored a season-high six goals against the Detroit Red Wings last Wednesday, but three straight losses since make that road win a distant memory.
Islanders: Coach Jack Capuano said it Tuesday night and general manager Garth Snow acted on it over the weekend. The Islanders need to change things up to stave off stagnation. So after Tuesday's teeth-grinding loss to the Rangers, Capuano loosened things up in practice Wednesday.
"You have to stay positive," Capuano told Newsday in light of his team's 2-4-2 stretch. "These guys know what we need to be doing and they have to stick with it. There's no time for panic or being overly critical. They know."
Senators: After blowing a 4-3 second-intermission lead Tuesday night in a 6-5 loss to the host Chicago Blackhawks, coach Paul MacLean experimented with various combinations among forwards and defensemen at practice Thursday, particularly at the blue line.
"We haven't tried the ones that we had today," MacLean told the Senators website. "We're trying to find a way to play better, we haven't played a consistent -- the game in Detroit we were pretty good, the Edmonton game was a good 60 minutes, in Chicago for 30 minutes we got them at 4-2 but then we don't end up winning the game. I don't think we can just keep doing the same thing and expect to get better results. We have to try to make some changes and find some combinations at forward and defense that are going to work for us. That's all we're trying to do is find a way to give our team the best chance to win."
Who's hot: Many complimentary things have been said about the Islanders' power play, at least at home, where its 29 percent success rate is second-best in the NHL behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. On the road it's not quite as good, at a 24th-best 12.5 percent. Though the Senators' home power play is a disappointing 1-for-16, the penalty kill has allowed one goal on home ice in 21 man-down opportunities for a League-best 95.2 percent. Islanders forward Frans Nielsen's four-game goal-scoring streak was stopped Tuesday, but he has seven points in his past five games. Kyle Okposo had a five-game point streak stopped, but that's the second time in 10 games he's been held off the board. Senators captain Jason Spezza has an assist in each of his past two games, the two goals he scored in Detroit giving him four points in as many games, and Kyle Turris has five points in his past four games.
Injury report: Islanders defenseman Brian Strait (upper body) has been out the past two games and is questionable for Friday. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) remains on injured reserve. … The Senators enter Friday injury-free.
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