(AP) – The Montreal Canadiens may be coming off their worst defensive effort of the season, but Carey Price is still among the top goaltenders in the NHL.
The New York Islanders wish their situation in net was as settled.
The Canadiens look to continue their home dominance of the injury-ravaged Islanders on Thursday night.
Montreal (30-20-5) has followed a three-game winning streak with consecutive losses, but the latest effort was one of its worst this season. The Canadiens gave up a season high in goals Wednesday, falling 8-6 at Boston in a game marred by seven game misconducts and 182 penalty minutes, including seven to Price for fighting Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas.
Montreal is second in the Northeast Division, four points back of Boston.
“(Wednesday) was a big game. A lot of points were on the line. Important points,” said captain Brian Gionta, who had a goal, an assist and four penalty minutes for roughing. “It’s just an emotional game, and that’s what you saw out there.”
Despite allowing a career high in goals, Price is tied for the NHL lead with a personal-best 26 wins. His 2.43 goals-against average is the lowest of his four-season career.
It’s unclear if he’ll be back in net or if backup Alex Auld will get the nod. Auld is 3-0-0 with a 2.38 GAA in his last four starts, and made 30 saves in a 3-1 road win over New York (17-29-7) on Oct. 29.
The Canadiens are 14-2-2 the last 18 meetings with the Islanders at Bell Centre, winning the last three there. They’re also 12-1-3 over the past 16 overall matchups, but fell 4-1 at New York on Dec. 26.
Montreal is among the league’s best at home with an 18-7-4 record.
While Price leads the league in games played by a netminder (49), the Eastern Conference-worst Islanders have been left with a pair of very inexperienced goalies for this game.
New York is scheduled to start Mikko Koskinen for the second consecutive game after the 22-year-old stopped 21 of 26 shots in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Toronto in his NHL debut. Joel Martin, who has yet to appear in an NHL game, will be Koskinen’s backup.
Koskinen was pressed into duty after fellow rookie Kevin Poulin suffered a dislocated left knee cap during pregame warmups Tuesday.
“There wasn’t much time to do anything. I didn’t even have time to be nervous,” Koskinen said.
Poulin is out for the season, while Rick DiPietro (broken facial bones) is sidelined at least three weeks and Nathan Lawson (knee) – another rookie – has been sidelined over two weeks.
New York added depth in net Wednesday, acquiring Al Montoya in a trade with Phoenix.
Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec has 12 goals and 11 assists his past 16 meetings with the Islanders, scoring a goal in each of the last four. He leads the team with 45 points, getting two assists Wednesday.
Defenseman James Wisniewski will face the Islanders for the first time since being traded to Montreal for two draft picks in December. He has two goals and 13 assists in 16 games with the Canadiens.
Islanders left wing Matt Moulson has five goals in eight games, one in each of the last two. He leads the team with 19 goals, but has none in seven games versus Montreal.
Updated February 10, 2011
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