Islanders, Stars seek more net gains from goalies
NEW YORK -- A pair of goaltenders could be in the spotlight Wednesday night when the New York Islanders host the Dallas Stars at Barclays Center in the teams' final meeting of the season.
Both teams were off Tuesday after snapping three-game losing streaks Monday night. The Islanders ended their skid by beating the visiting Washington Capitals 3-1. The Stars snapped out of their slump and began a four-game Eastern Conference road trip by outlasting the host New York Rangers 2-1 in the shootout.
The wins helped both teams in what are already shaping up to be tightly packed playoff races. The Islanders (17-10-3) are two points behind Columbus and Washington, who are tied for first in the Metropolitan Division, while the Stars (17-13-1) climbed into wild-card position in the Western Conference.
The day off means the matchup may pit the netminders who earned wins Monday in the Stars' Kari Lehtonen and the surging Jaroslav Halak.
Lehtonen notched the 299th win of his career by recording 24 saves against the Rangers and tied Miikka Kiprusoff for the most games played by a Finnish-born goaltender (623).
"That's a little extra thing there," Lehtonen said. "Just getting a win in this league is hard. (To) get one tonight to start the road trip is just very good."
Lehtonen opened the season as the backup to Ben Bishop, though the two have alternated starts over the last six games. Even if he doesn't start Wednesday, Lehtonen is all but assured of getting a shot at win No. 300 on the road trip, which concludes with back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and Saturday.
Halak and Thomas Greiss opened the season in a 50/50 timeshare for the Islanders. But Halak, who notched 31 saves Monday night, has started three straight games and seven of the last eight overall. New York is 4-2-1 under Halak in that span.
Islanders coach Doug Weight didn't revel his Wednesday starter following Monday's game, but left little doubt which goalie he's enamored with at the moment.
"I think he's been playing well," Weight said. "I think he's taken the ball a little bit and he's kept us in games. I like the way he's been playing."
Halak is 4-6-1 in 11 career appearances against the Stars. He took the loss on Nov. 10, when he made 24 saves in a 5-0 loss in Dallas. Greiss is 5-1-0 in eight career games against Dallas.
Lehtonen is 7-6-1 in 15 career games against the Islanders. Bishop, who earned the win Nov. 10 by stopping all 14 shots he faced, is 7-4-1 in 12 appearances against New York.
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