Big Hockey Action; Blackhawks at Islanders

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The New York Islanders have enjoyed facing the Chicago Blackhawks recently. No one seems to enjoy seeing them more than Alexei Yashin.

Yashin will try to help the Islanders continue their recent domination of the punchless Blackhawks as they face off Tuesday night at the Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum.

New York (4-4-2) has won three straight games against Chicago, outscoring the Blackhawks 16-5.

The recent winning streak follows a 10-game winless stretch from March 1997 to December 2002 in which the Islanders lost eight games and tied two.

Yashin, the Isles' captain, had a career-high four goals in a 9-2 rout March 25, 2003, in Chicago and has seven goals in his last three games against the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks (4-7-0), meanwhile, arrive in Long Island having dropped five in a row - the last three by shutout. Chicago, which lost 3-0 on Monday at Philadelphia, has been held without a goal since Michal Handzus scored at 14:50 of the second period in a 4-3 loss Oct. 21 to the St. Louis Blues.

Later in that contest, Handzus suffered a season-ending knee injury, and the Blackhawks haven't scored in 205 minutes, 10 seconds.

``It's frustrating losing, but we've got to stay with it,'' said goaltender Brian Boucher, who has been starting while Nikolai Khabibulin recovers from a broken finger. ``We can't get discouraged.''

The scoreless skid, though, doesn't come close to the longest in Blackhawks history - established at 621 minutes, 42 seconds from Feb. 5-March 2, 1929.

Besides missing Handzus and Khabibulin, the Blackhawks are still without high-scoring left wing Martin Havlat, who is expected to miss two more weeks with a sprained right ankle. Havlat had seven goals and 13 points in his first seven games.

Chicago did welcome back oft-injured center Tuomo Ruutu, who made his season debut Monday after missing more than five weeks with a sprained left knee suffered in the preseason. A back injury and partially severed left ankle tendon limited him to 15 games in 2005-06.

New York is 3-1-2 entering the final game of its season-high seven-game homestand after a 4-3 shootout win Saturday over Florida. Andy Hilbert scored the winning goal in the 10th round of the shootout for the Islanders, who have won consecutive games just once this season.

``It's a matter of who's going to blink first,'' said Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who had 22 saves and stopped nine shootout attempts to improve to 2-4-0.

The top overall pick by New York in 2000, DiPietro is 2-0-0 with a 1.47 goals-against average lifetime against Chicago.

Jason Blake has five goals and two assists on the homestand and is one goal shy of 100 for his career. Blake, though, failed to score a goal in nine previous games against the Blackhawks.

by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us

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