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Islanders

Islanders Return From Road, Face Red-Hot Canucks

Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with teammates Jeff Tambellini #10 and Dan Hamhuis #2 after scoring against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Rogers Arena January 7, 2011 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with teammates Jeff Tambellini #10 and Dan Hamhuis #2 after scoring against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Rogers Arena January 7, 2011 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Islanders may be on a roll in relation to their expectations, but the Vancouver Canucks’ recent run has propelled them to the top of the NHL standings.

New York returns home after a five-game road trip Tuesday night to face Vancouver, which has earned a point in 16 straight contests.

The Canucks (27-8-6) haven’t lost in regulation since a 3-2 defeat to St. Louis on Dec. 5. They’re 13-0-3 since, averaging 4.6 goals during that stretch, and their 3.4 average this season leads the league.

Two of Vancouver’s losses during its 17-1-3 run over its last 21 games have come to Detroit, which defeated the Canucks 2-1 in a shootout Saturday. Despite the rare loss, the Canucks were happy with their performance.

“We played well, we definitely deserved two points (Saturday),” Ryan Kesler told the team’s official website. “It’s a shootout loss, what are you going to do? They don’t have shootouts in the playoffs. We’ve got to stay positive in here and just keep playing the way we’re playing and we’ll be fine.”

Roberto Luongo, who made 24 appearances for the Islanders in his 1999-2000 rookie season before being traded to Florida, made 32 saves. He’s 8-0-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average since Dec. 8, losing twice to the Red Wings.

Despite his recent success, Luongo hasn’t fared well against his former team in recent seasons. He’s 1-2-2 with a 3.33 GAA since 2005, including a 5-2 loss March 16 in the teams’ lone meeting last season.

The Islanders are experiencing their own difficulty at the goaltending position, as two rookies have been forced into splitting time.

New York (13-21-6) traded veteran Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay for a minor-league prospect on New Year’s Day, then Rick DiPietro was sidelined with a lower-body injury two days later and has missed the last three games.

Interim coach Jack Capuano had no update on when DiPietro may return.

Kevin Poulin won his only start Saturday, making 34 saves and beating Colorado 4-3. Nathan Lawson made 40 saves Sunday in a 5-0 loss to Chicago. It’s unclear who will get the responsibility of trying to shut down the NHL’s top offense, but the Islanders know they need to play better in front of their young netminders.

“We didn’t play very well and we didn’t show up for him (Lawson),” forward P.A. Parenteau told the team’s official website after the loss to the Blackhawks. “That’s unacceptable. We’re going to have to fix that.”

Despite the lopsided defeat, New York finished its road trip 3-2-0. The Islanders are 8-3-1 following a stretch in which they dropped 20 of 21.

John Tavares, who has six goals and eight assists in his last 12 games, said the Islanders must start with more energy than they have over their last three games.

“We haven’t started well the last three games, and that probably took a toll on us in the last two,” Tavares said, “A team like us can’t afford to take a period off or even the first 10 minutes off.”

The Islanders have won the last two meetings and four of five at home against the Canucks.

© 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.

pixy Islanders Return From Road, Face Red Hot Canucks