NHL

Panthers-Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders won in their first game without Kyle Okposo but his presence was sorely missed in the team's latest two contests.

The Islanders will try to avoid a season high-tying third consecutive defeat in Tuesday night's visit from the slumping Florida Panthers.

Okposo, the team's second-leading scorer, is expected to sit out at least five more weeks because of an undisclosed upper-body injury, and New York (32-16-1) has missed his production lately.

After scoring 32 times in a 6-1-0 stretch, the Islanders totaled three goals in losses to Boston on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday. They limited the Red Wings to 19 shots but produced just 23 in a 4-1 road defeat.

New York's league-worst penalty-killing unit gave up two more goals and has allowed nine in its last 17 times short-handed. The Islanders scored a power-play goal for the fifth time in six games.

They remain in fine shape to reach the playoffs for the second time in eight seasons, leading Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division and ninth-place Florida by 13 in the Eastern Conference. That's likely one reason why coach Jack Capuano isn't too concerned by the past two games.

New York has dropped three in a row twice this season, most recently Dec. 6-11.

"There are a few things in special teams we want to change, but from our standpoint, there aren't too many things we want to change," Capuano told the team's official website. "We can't be in panic mode because we lost a couple of games."

A win over Florida (21-17-10) would undoubtedly help the Islanders stay calm and they would appear to be catching the Panthers at the right time.

Florida dropped to 1-6-1 in its last eight with a 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers on Monday, giving up three goals in the final period. The Panthers had rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second.

"We battled back but again it's not enough," forward Nick Bjugstad told the league's website. "We have to be mentally prepared for a whole game and not a few periods. That's what happens in this league if you're not prepared for a full game; it was a tough loss.

"Every game is a must-win at this point. It's not in our favor losing a game like that but can't dwell too much on it."

The Panthers have been outscored 32-18 in their lackluster stretch and have suffered three consecutive regulation losses on the road for the first time this season.

Brandon Pirri has been a bright spot lately with four goals in five games. Pirri, who has six goals this season, scored in his only matchup with the Islanders, a 4-2 road loss April 1.

Pirri was out with a concussion during the only other meeting with New York this season, a 4-3 shootout loss Nov. 14. The Islanders blew a two-goal lead in the third period, allowing Aaron Ekblad's tying score with 2:35 remaining, but Okposo helped secure his team's two points in the tiebreaker.

New York has won six of the last eight meetings with Florida and three of the past four on Long Island.

New York's Jaroslav Halak has a 1.18 goals-against average in a personal five-game win streak against the Panthers.

With Roberto Luongo starting Monday's game, Florida could send out ex-Islanders netminder Al Montoya. He's won each of his two matchups against his former team.

Luongo is 3-1-1 with a 3.08 GAA in his last five meetings.

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