Islanders Try To Snap Skid Against Wild
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(AP) – In the thick of the tightly packed Western Conference playoff race, the Minnesota Wild feel drastic changes weren’t necessary to improve their chances.
Injuries, however, are still a challenge, and the New York Islanders also appear capable of posing a stiff test.
In the first of two games in New York, the Wild look to extend their winning streak over the Islanders to six Wednesday night.
Minnesota (33-24-6) is among eight teams battling for the last five playoff positions in the West, and the teams are separated by just four points.
The Wild opted against making any significant moves prior to Monday’s trade deadline, only acquiring two prospects from Boston in exchange for seldom-used goaltender Anton Khudobin.
“To go out and to overpay for a marginal player or a role player when our players are playing as well as they are now, that just didn’t seem to make any sense,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said, adding: “I looked long and hard over the last week, and I couldn’t find a Mikko Koivu in the marketplace.”
Koivu, second on the team with 49 points, has missed five games with a broken left index finger. The center is expected to return before the end of the regular season.
Left wing Guillaume Latendresse (groin), the Wild’s co-goal scoring leader from last season with 25, has been out since October and might return in a week.
Defenseman Cam Barker could miss a fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
“Again, we feel the best acquisition we were going to get is the guys we already have,” coach Todd Richards said.
Martin Havlat has four goals and two assists the last six games. He had one of each in Monday’s 4-2 loss to Chicago, one of the teams the Wild are competing with for a playoff spot.
Havlat leads Minnesota with 20 goals and 54 points. He has six goals and eight assists in 17 meetings with the Islanders (23-32-9).
Brent Burns is putting together a strong stretch with two goals and two assists in three games. He’s the club’s top scoring defenseman with 39 points, and his 16 goals are a career high and a franchise record for blueliners.
The Wild have won eight of 11 all-time matchups with New York, winning each of the last five since a 3-1 defeat at Nassau Coliseum on March 19, 2004.
Koivu had a goal in Minnesota’s 3-2 home win over the Islanders in the most recent meeting Nov. 20, 2009.
The last-place Islanders have lost four straight, but each of the defeats have come by one goal and two in overtime. They were in position to break that trend at Washington on Tuesday, but squandered the lead with 47.2 seconds to play before losing 2-1 in overtime.
“It’s extremely disappointing to lose it in the last 47 seconds,” said Nathan Lawson, who tied a career high with 40 saves. “We battled so hard for 59 minutes. To come away with just one point is unacceptable.”
Matt Moulson has seven goals over the last six games, giving the left wing a team-leading 28 on the season, two shy of his personal best set last season.
Updated March 1, 2011
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