CANADIENS (20-13-2) at ISLANDERS (8-18-6)
TV – RDS (HD); TSN-HABS (HD); MSG PLUS (HD)
Last 10 – Montreal 5-5-0; New York 3-6-1
Season series -- It’s the third of four meetings this season between the Eastern Conference rivals. Montreal swept a home-and-home series early in the season, winning 5-3 at home on Oct. 27 and 3-1 on Long Island two nights later.
Big story – The Canadiens will arrive on Long Island on Sunday after their holiday break to begin the second half of a seven-game trip coming off a 3-2 win at Carolina on Thursday that kept them in first place in the Northwest Division. After a disastrous seven-week stretch that dropped them into last place in the overall standings, the Islanders are perking up – they are 3-0-1 in their last four and beat Tampa Bay and New Jersey on consecutive nights before the Christmas break.
Canadiens – The win at Carolina was a big one for the Habs, who had lost five of their previous six and four in a row on the road. Montreal won it by scoring twice during a five-minute power play late in the second period after Eric Cole was called for a major penalty for boarding Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.
“It just shows the team we have," center Scott Gomez said. "We've got a lot of veteran guys in here and the young guys are playing great. But when you're going bad, sometimes (giving up) that first goal is just, 'Oh, here we go again.' But we've gone through it all. We know how to win. We've just got to put it together."
Islanders – A month in the AHL appears to have rejuvenated Josh Bailey. The Islanders’ No. 1 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft was recalled Wednesday after spending 11 games at Bridgeport and was a big factor in the back-to-back wins against Tampa Bay and New Jersey. He had several chances against the Lightning, then scored twice in the first period and had a second-period assist in the victory against New Jersey.
“He was excellent,” interim coach Jack Capuano said. “He went down there (to the Sound Tigers) with the right attitude and went down there and did the things we asked him to do. What we wanted to do when we brought him back was make sure his game carried over and for the last two nights he’s done that.”
Who’s hot – Islanders center John Tavares is perking up. He has 5 points during a four-game point-scoring streak and has goals in back-to-back games. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson went nearly two months without a win before allowing just two goals in the wins against Tampa Bay and New Jersey.
Injury report – While the Canadiens are healthy, the Islanders’ injury list continues to grow. Defenseman Radek Martinek (wrist) sat out Thursday and forward Matt Moulson left early in the first period after being rocked by a check by Anton Volchenkov. The Isles also have a number of players on IR, including goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee), defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo (wrist surgery) and forward Trent Hunter (knee surgery).
Stat pack – The Canadiens have gotten at least one point in each of their last 15 meetings with the Isles, winning 12 and losing once in overtime and twice in shootouts. The last time the Islanders beat Montreal in regulation was a 3-2 victory at the Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2007.
Puck drop – Though the Isles are struggling at the box office and on the ice, owner Charles Wang made it clear Thursday that he’s not looking to sell the team. Wang appeared on Commissioner Gary Bettman’s weekly radio show and said flatly the team is not for sale. He said he’s committed to keeping the team on Long Island, though his lease at the Nassau Coliseum runs out in 2015 and there are no plans for a new arena. As for the on-ice performance, he admitted that, "We are probably as disappointed if not more disappointed, I would say more disappointed, than all of the fans."