Skidding Panthers try to avoid home loss to Islanders
Losers of five straight for the third time this season, the Florida Panthers hope to avoid their first home loss in regulation against the New York Islanders in over six years as the two clubs clash on Saturday night.
The Panthers and Islanders are scheduled to meet three times this season, but Saturday is the lone encounter in Florida. The Panthers are 9-0-2 in their last 11 versus the Isles in Sunrise, where they haven't lost in 60 minutes in this series since Nov. 18, 2006.
Florida has won nine of the previous 13 encounters overall, but comes into this meeting having won just once in its last nine games this season.
The Panthers saw their skid reach a season high-tying five straight with Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. Florida trailed 2-0 after the first, but got a short-handed tally from Shawn Matthias 3:10 into the second period.
That ended up as the lone tally of the game for the Panthers, who got 28 saves from Scott Clemmensen and are last in the NHL with 20 points.
"He gave us a chance to win tonight," said Florida defenseman Brian Campbell said of his goaltender. "But we got behind and it's not easy coming back against a team like Boston."
Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen confirmed on Thursday that forward Kris Versteeg would need season-ending knee surgery and he joins a crowded injured reserve list that includes defensemen Dmitry Kulikov, Mike Weaver and Ed Jovanovski as well as forward Scottie Upshall and goaltender Jose Theodore.
The Islanders hope to extend the Panthers' current skid to six straight for the first time since a 10-game slide from March 19-April 8, 2011, and come in having won four of their previous six.
After getting hammered 6-1 in Pittsburgh last Sunday, the Islanders rebounded with a 2-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Evgeni Nabokov posted 18 saves for his second shutout of the season and 54th of his career.
"Our guys have matured," said New York head coach Jack Capuano, whose club is three points behind the Winnipeg Jets for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. "They're aware of the little things you have to do, the difference between winning and losing."
John Tavares notched his 17th goal of the season, among the league leaders, and Brad Boyes assisted on the tally before putting home an empty-net goal. Tavares has four goals in his past five games, while Boyes has logged three goals and eight points in his last six contests.
The Islanders conclude a three-game road trip before returning home for four straight, a span that ends with a visit from the Panthers on March 24.