Panthers-Islanders Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 15, 2013
The New York Islanders have been able to overcome some rough performances at home by posting one of the league's best road records, which bodes well for a playoff-hopeful team set to finish the regular season with an extended road trip. Lately, though, they've been playing well no matter the venue. New York looks to conclude its home slate by earning at least a point in an eighth consecutive game overall as it hosts the last-place Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. The surprising Islanders (21-16-5) are in position to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2006-07. They currently hold the Eastern Conference's seventh seed, one point better than the eighth-place New York Rangers. Despite suffering a 1-0 overtime loss at home to the Rangers on Saturday, New York has gone 5-0-2 in its last seven. "Get the point, move on," said John Tavares, whose 24 goals are among the league leaders. "We've got our last home game on Tuesday and some more big games coming up." The Islanders are 4-0-1 in their last five at home, a stretch that began March 24 when Tavares and Casey Cizikas scored empty-netters to close out a 3-0 win over Florida. Though they've been playing well recently on Long Island, they're just 9-11-3 at Nassau Coliseum. That hasn't stopped the fans from showing their support, creating a playoff-like atmosphere Saturday the Islanders hope is matched for Tuesday's contest. ''I've been here three years, and that's the loudest crowd I've heard,'' defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "You could really feel the energy. It makes you want to get (to the playoffs). I'm sure it would be even crazier.'' New York, which has one of league's best road marks at 12-5-2, ends the regular season on a five-game road trip beginning Thursday at Toronto. It also will face Winnipeg, Carolina, Philadelphia and Buffalo - all teams currently out of the top eight - after this contest with disappointing Florida, which has the fewest points in the NHL. The Panthers (13-22-6) won a season-best three straight from March 28-April 2, but they've since lost three of four. They tied a season worst for goals allowed in a 7-2 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday before Saturday's 3-1 defeat to East-leading Pittsburgh. Scottie Upshall ended a nine-game goal drought Saturday for Florida, which has been eliminated from playoff contention one season after winning the Southeast Division. ''We had some good opportunities, but at the end we couldn't finish against a good team,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. Florida, which has been outscored 67-35 while going 6-12-1 on the road, may give Jacob Markstrom his third straight start in goal. He went 5-2-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average in seven starts from March 19-April 2, but he's lost his last three outings while posting a 4.79 GAA. Markstrom made 34 saves in last month's loss to the Islanders, who are likely to counter with veteran Evgeni Nabokov. Since recording a 26-save shutout of the Panthers, Nabokov is 7-1-2 with a 1.38 GAA in his last 10 starts. He also made 30 saves in a 4-3 win at Florida on March 16.
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