(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders will try to solve their issues against Central Division opponents when they visit the Minnesota Wild for Tuesday's battle at Xcel Energy Center.
The Islanders own an above .500 record against every division this season except the Central. New York is 2-3-0 versus the division after getting dealt a 6-4 home loss by the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. That encounter kicked off a stretch of four consecutive tilts against Central Division opponents.
After visiting the Wild tonight, New York will head to St. Louis for Thursday's rematch against the Blues before returning home to face Chicago on Saturday.
New York had won four in a row against the Wild before Minnesota routed the Isles, 6-0, on Long Island in the last meeting on March 18. It was the sixth win in the last 10 encounters for the Wild, who have lost their last two home tilts against the Islanders.
The Isles started strong against St. Louis before falling apart in the second and third period. New York jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening stanza and chased Blues starting goaltender Jake Allen from the game. However, Martin Brodeur stopped 14-of-15 shots the rest of the way for St. Louis, which tallied three times in both the second and third periods to win 6-4.
Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome, Michael Grabner and John Tavares supplied offense for the Islanders, who had a three-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the third time in 16 games.
Jaroslav Halak was on the hook for all six goals on 40 shots in defeat, ending his franchise-record personal win streak at 11.
"No question we struggled on the back end," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "It was just a matter of time before it came back to haunt us and it did. We're missing three of our top four D but we have confidence in this group of guys."
The Isles played without defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky, who are all currently on injured reserve with various ailments. However, Visnovsky and forward Josh Bailey, who missed the last two games due to injury, skated on Monday and Capuano said both could play tonight.
New York fell to 6-4-0 against the Western Conference with Saturday's setback. The club is 13-4-0 versus the East.
The Wild, who are 6-6-0 against the East, are 1-1-1 so far on a four-game homestand.
Minnesota lost its most recent outing Friday against Anaheim, dropping a 5-4 decision in a back-and-forth contest. The Wild erased a 3-0 deficit to go ahead by one goal, but the Ducks would answer back for the win.
Anaheim was ahead 3-0 after Ryan Kesler scored his second goal of the game at 2:28 of the second period. Minnesota would even the score by the end of 40 minutes and then grabbed a 4-3 edge when Justin Fontaine tallied 2:07 into the third stanza. The Ducks, however, evened the scored just 90 seconds later and Matt Beleskey would deliver the game-winner for Anaheim at 8:28 of the final period.
Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Jonas Brodin joined Fontaine as the goal-scorers for the Wild, who were coming off a win over Montreal on Wednesday.
Darcy Kuemper struggled between the pipes for Minnesota, allowing all five goals on just 18 shots.
"We'll have to discuss [how comfortable the team is with Kuemper]," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously, we have to make sure we're strong there. We'll evaluate that carefully."
Niklas Backstrom will start tonight for Minnesota. He is 4-2-1 with a 2.17 goals against average in seven career games against the Isles.
The Wild played their second straight game Friday without top defenseman Ryan Suter, who is battling the mumps. Suter is expected to return for tonight's contest.
Halak is 2-2-3 with a 2.11 GAA against the Wild and is expected to get the start tonight.