Islanders-Blackhawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 01, 2011
The Chicago Blackhawks appeared stagnant in their first game back following their annual circus trip. They'll look to pick up the pace Friday night against the New York Islanders, who are feeling good after opening their four-game trek with a pair of rare road wins. Chicago (14-8-3), which posted back-to-back victories to split its recently completed six-game trip, failed to carry over any momentum in its return to the United Center. The Blackhawks couldn't convert on their one power-play opportunity - a season worst at home - and Corey Crawford was pulled in the third period of Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Phoenix. "We were playing well there at the end of the California trip, and obviously didn't carry it over to home ice," said right wing Patrick Sharp, who provided all the offense with his 11th goal. "We've got to be way more consistent and put a better effort on home ice than that." Chicago has won five of seven at home despite converting just 2 of 29 chances with the man advantage. Scoring on the power play could prove difficult against an Islanders team which has killed all seven of its opponents' power-play opportunities in opening its trip 2-0-0. Three days after beating New Jersey 3-2, New York - which went 0-5-2 over its first seven road games - handed Buffalo a 2-1 defeat Tuesday. The Islanders (7-11-4), last in the Eastern Conference, haven't won three straight away from home since Feb. 10-15. "It was just a great team effort," forward Brian Rolston, who scored the game-winning goal Tuesday, told the Islanders' official website. "Guys were really sacrificing. We need that kind of desperation if we want to get back into this (race for the playoffs)." Al Montoya stopped 24 shots against the Devils before making 30 saves Tuesday, improving to 4-3-1 with a 2.01 GAA in eight starts. He has never faced the Blackhawks. "You like to build on things, we might not have had the success we wanted to, but we're putting it together," Montoya said. "It might be a certain shift or a certain penalty kill, but it's building that momentum and knowing that when you get in that situation again that you've been there and you've done it and you can do it again." While Montoya has held his own of late, the Islanders haven't generated much offense with a league-low 1.95 goals per game - 1.78 on the road. That certainly bodes well for Crawford, who is expected to be back in goal. He has gone 4-2-2 at home despite a shaky 3.36 GAA. Chicago had dropped six consecutive meetings in this series before recording a 5-0 home victory Jan. 9 behind 29 saves from Crawford in his only career appearance versus New York. Sharp and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews have combined for 14 goals and 13 assists over the last 10 contests. Islanders center John Tavares, tied for the team lead with 16 points, has been held off the scoresheet over a season-worst six games. He's failed to register a point in two career matchups with Chicago. New York concludes its trip Saturday against Dallas.
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