Predators face test against Islanders

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Few NHL teams have been as consistent this season as the New York Islanders. The Nashville Predators are hoping a complete win Monday night might provide the jump-start they need to finally establish some momentum.

The Predators will look to win on the road for the second time in as many nights Tuesday when they visit the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y.

Nashville opened a four-game Eastern Conference road trip Monday by beating the New York Rangers 5-2. The Islanders last played Saturday, when they earned a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

Another victory on Tuesday would continue an uncanny stretch of inconsistency by the Predators, who opened the season 8-3-1 but have subsequently ridden a roller coaster filled with peaks and valleys.

Nashville lost eight of nine (1-6-2) between Oct. 31 and Nov. 21 and has won six of its past 11 (6-3-2) since, a span that includes two two-game winning streaks and two two-game losing skids, the most recent of which was snapped Monday.

The Predators and Rangers traded goals during a 34-second span around the midway point of the first period Monday before Nashville took the lead for good by scoring twice in just over five minutes in the second. New York pulled within 3-2 with under three minutes to play but Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis iced the victory with empty-net goals.

“It was a really good effort,” said Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who stayed home Sunday while battling an illness but flew to New York on Monday afternoon and scored what ended up being the game-winning goal in the second period. “Guys were battling hard out there, playing hard. Maybe it wasn’t the prettiest one, but this is the way it’s going to go when you work hard.”

The Islanders, who have the fourth-most points in the NHL (46) despite playing just 31 games, tied for the league low, know all about winning in a workmanlike fashion. The victory Saturday improved New York to 11-1-2 in one-goal games, including 8-2 in games decided in overtime or shootout.

In addition, the Islanders are 10-7-2 when scoring three goals or fewer. New York, which allowed the fewest goals in the league last season, has given up 72 goals this season, eight fewer than any other team.

“I think we’ve learned to become comfortable in an uncomfortable situation,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said following practice Monday. “One-goal games are a little less comfortable than a 4-1 lead or something like that. And I think we’ve learned to manage that. We’ve learned to understand it.”

Goalie Juuse Saros earned the win for the Predators by making 39 saves Monday, which means No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne is likely to draw the start Tuesday. Rinne hasn’t played since Saturday, when he took the loss after stopping 18 shots as Nashville fell 4-1 to the visiting Dallas Stars.

The Islanders have alternated goalies Semyon Varlamov with Thomas Greiss through the season’s first 31 games, which puts Greiss in line to start Tuesday after Varlamov earned the win by making 33 saves Saturday. Greiss won his most recent start last Thursday, when he recorded 32 saves as New York beat the host Florida Panthers 3-1.

Rinne is 5-3-2 in 10 career games against the Islanders. Greiss is 3-5-0 in nine appearances against the Predators.

–Field Level Media

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