Islanders make rare trip to St. Louis
Saturday, 11.21.2009 / 6:00 PM
ISLANDERS (8-7-7) at BLUES (7-8-4)
Last 10 --
New York 5-3-2; St. Louis 3-4-3
Season series --
The teams are meeting for the first time in more than a year. The Islanders opened their home season in '08-09 by beating the Blues 5-3, scoring four times in the first period. The teams meet again on Long Island on March 11.
Big story --
This is Game 5 of a six-game homestand for the Blues (they're 2-2-0 after a 3-2 OT win over Phoenix on Thursday) and the sixth game of seven in a row on the road for the Islanders (they're 2-1-2 after a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Friday night.
The Blues have struggled to score since coming home from Sweden after beating Detroit in a pair of season-opening games. St. Louis has just 15 goals in its last nine games -- and six of those came in a 6-1 win over Vancouver in the first game of the homestand.
In contrast, the Islanders have been putting the puck in the net. Before Friday's loss, they had scored four or more goals in five consecutive games for the first time since December 1993.
The Islanders' bugaboo this season continues to be an inability to close out games. They've lost four times (three in OT or shootouts) when leading after two periods and have blown multi-goal leads six times. New York took a 2-1 lead into the third period at Minnesota on Friday night, but allowed a power-play goal by Mikko Koivu and a late goal by Owen Nolan after a turnover to lose a game they should have gotten at least one point from.
"We turned the puck over. It's not complicated," a very unhappy coach Scott Gordon said after the Isles' failure to clear the zone wound up with Nolan left alone in front of Martin Biron. "It's a turnover that shouldn't have happened."
Much was expected when the Blues took defenseman Erik Johnson
with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. After a solid rookie season in 2007-08, he missed all of last season with a knee injury that required surgery. But his end-to-end rush for the overtime winner in Thursday's 3-2 victory over Phoenix was a reminder of why the Blues were so eager to get him.
"It felt great. Any time you score a goal it feels good," Johnson said after scoring 17 seconds into OT. "But to win a game against a good team like Phoenix, it feels even better."
Who's hot --
Blues goaltender Chris Mason has allowed just 10 goals in his last six starts, even though he's just 2-2-2 in that span. … Isles rookie John Tavares has 8 points in his last six games, though he saw his five-game points streak end in Minnesota.
Injury report --
The Blues will have center Alex Steen
available. He's missed 14 games with a broken wrist, but practiced on Friday and said he was ready to go. That leaves only forward D.J. King
on the injured list -- he's missed nearly a month with a dislocated right hand. … Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt is back with the team but may sit again. He missed Monday's game for personal reasons and didn't dress on Friday. Captain Doug Weight (upper body) is still a couple of weeks away; goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee surgery) might be back next month.
Stat pack --
The Islanders are 4-0-2-1 in their last seven visits to St. Louis -- but they haven't been there since December 2005. The last time the Isles left town without a point was a 4-1 loss on Dec. 19, 1995. … St. Louis' win over Phoenix on Thursday was its first in five games that have gone past regulation.
Puck drop --
This is the Blues' 12th game at the Scottrade Center -- they've played only six on the road (plus one of each in Sweden). But they're only 4-6-1 at home, and for St. Louis to get back into the top eight in the West, it has to start making the Scottrade Center a tougher place for visiting teams. The Islanders will have to regroup quickly after Friday's disappointing loss.