Panthers-Islanders Preview

The Florida Panthers weren't up to the challenge in the opener of their road trip. A more difficult one appears to be forthcoming.

The New York Islanders are riding a 10-game point streak and seek a sixth consecutive home win when the teams face off Tuesday night.

New York (18-8-5) has gone on a 7-0-1 tear to vault into second place in the Metropolitan Division. Having ground out close wins for much of the surge, the Islanders had a less stressful result to move to 8-0-2 over their last 10 with Sunday's 4-0 victory over New Jersey.

After having five straight games decided by overtime or shootout, the Islanders cruised to a third consecutive win behind Thomas Greiss' 27 saves and Marek Zidlicky's two goals.

"We seemed to be sharper (Sunday)," said captain John Tavares, who added a goal after four straight pointless games. "For whatever reason, we had our legs right off the get-go and we were able to sustain it. That was the good part. We didn't just come out hard, but we were able to keep that going for a full 60."

Good defense and sharp goaltending have been the constants during the successful stretch. The Islanders have killed off 25 straight penalties and received consistent play from both Jaroslav Halak and Greiss, who's posted a 1.47 goals-against average while winning four straight starts.

Halak, expected to start Tuesday, has a 1.89 GAA over his last six. He followed a season-best 43-save performance in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win at Philadelphia with 28 in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory at Columbus.

Halak is 9-2-1 with a 1.89 GAA in 12 starts against Florida (14-12-4) but has lost two straight, the most recent a 3-2 shootout defeat Nov. 27 that began a Panthers' five-game winning streak.

Florida has lost three of four since and struggled again offensively in Saturday's 3-1 loss to Boston to start its four-game trip.

''There wasn't much out there,'' said forward Reilly Smith, who scored the Panthers' goal in his first visit to Boston since his offseason trade to Florida. ''I felt like we didn't play our game right from the get-go. I felt like they controlled the pace and we let them off the hook.''

The Panthers have produced two or fewer goals in five of their last six games and are 2 for 23 on the power play over the past nine.

Jaromir Jagr has scored once over a 10-game stretch. Tied with Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the career goals list with 731, he has two in 17 meetings with New York since returning to the league in 2011-12.

Roberto Luongo is in a mild slump as well, having recorded a 3.06 GAA while losing three straight starts. The veteran had a 1.22 GAA in four consecutive wins prior to the skid.

Luongo has gone 4-0-1 with a 2.46 GAA in his last five starts against New York and stopped 23 shots Nov. 27.

Florida has gone 5-1-1 in the last seven games in the series but faces a tough atmosphere at Barclays Center, where the Islanders are 11-4-2 and haven't lost since Nov. 20. The Panthers also will be without two of their top centers with Derek MacKenzie suffering a lower-body injury against Boston and Nick Bjugstad sidelined by an upper-body issue.


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