Time running out as Islanders host Canadiens
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NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders won't have to wait long for a chance at redemption against the Montreal Canadiens.
But even a resounding win Friday night may be too little and too late to undo the damage the Islanders continued to suffer Wednesday.
The Islanders and Canadiens will oppose each other for the second time in as many games Friday night, when the two teams square off at Barclays Center. Host Montreal earned the win in the opener of the home-and-home Wednesday when it beat New York 3-1.
The loss dealt another damaging blow to the playoff hopes of the Islanders (29-28-7), whose fourth straight loss (0-3-1) dropped them four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
The low-scoring defeat added another layer of frustration to a trying stretch for the Islanders, who have allowed the most goals in the NHL (228) but whose current 3-6-2 streak features three losses in which they fell despite allowing three goals or fewer.
"We're playing some good games, we're doing the right things, it's just not enough right now," right winger Anthony Beauvillier told Newsday afterward. "We're not scoring as many goals as we used to. It's hard explaining it, actually. Everyone's thinking a little too much. It's mental. Everyone's trying to find their game."
The playoff prospects for the Canadiens (24-29-10) are far bleaker. Montreal, which has lost eight of 10 but collected points in six of those games (2-4-4), entered Thursday 11 points behind the Blue Jackets.
But the Canadiens will get plenty of time to try and build some late-season momentum during a 12-day road trip that is the longest in franchise history. After facing the Islanders, Montreal will visit the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Blue Jackets in a journey that will require 3,412 miles of air travel.
The Canadiens will likely start temporary No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi in net Friday night. Niemi, who is playing regularly with Carey Price sidelined with a concussion, won Wednesday by stopping 27 shots. He is 2-0-1 in his last three appearances.
"It was tough early (in the) season," Niemi told reporters Wednesday, referring to his brief stops with the Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins, for whom he went a combined 0-4-0 in five appearances. "It's bee great playing better now and getting a couple of wins."
The Islanders' starter is unknown after coach Doug Weight said Thursday that rookie Christopher Gibson would likely make his season debut by starting either Friday or Saturday, when New York opens a four-game road trip by visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Gibson was recalled last week to replace the injured Thomas Greiss as the backup to Jaroslav Halak, who took the loss after recording 23 saves Wednesday. Halak has started the last four games for the Islanders and 24 of the last 28 dating back to Dec. 27.
Islanders right winger Jordan Eberle left Thursday's practice with an undisclosed injury, though Weight said he was confident Eberle would play Friday.
Updated March 1, 2018