Canadiens-Islanders Preview

The Associated Press

While trade rumors continue to swirl around him, Evgeni Nabokov is giving plenty of reasons for the New York Islanders to keep him.

The veteran goaltender could get the chance to continue his stellar play Thursday night when the surging Islanders host a Montreal Canadiens team seeking a third consecutive win.

The Islanders (22-22-8) initially had trouble getting Nabokov to play for them after acquiring him off waivers in January 2011, but he currently seems content while providing some much-needed stability following Rick DiPietro's injury.

"It's a really good area, a really good organization," Nabokov said. "I like playing with the guys I'm with. I'm just as happy as I can be."

Nabokov is 6-1-0 with a 1.11 goals-against average over his last seven starts and posted his second shutout of the campaign Tuesday, making a season-high 45 saves in a 1-0 shootout win in Philadelphia.

His stellar play has come while his name has been linked to various reports with the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaching.

"I just go out and try to play good every game and give the guys a chance to win," Nabokov said. "It's up to the management to do what they have to do."

In the present, he might get the chance to help the Islanders earn a point in a fifth straight game. New York, 3-0-1 in its last four, went 4-0-2 from Nov. 26-Dec. 8.

The Islanders are also 6-1-2 in their last nine and 5-2-2 in their past nine home contests. They're also seeking a third straight win at the Nassau Coliseum over the Canadiens, who are trying to put their recent struggles further behind.

Montreal (21-24-9) has won back-to-back games after going 6-13-2 over its previous 21 but hasn't claimed three straight wins since a four-game run Oct. 26-Nov. 4. Following each of their most recent two-game win streaks, the Canadiens have dropped three or more in a row.

Montreal is also 2-7-1 in its last 10 road games but head into Long Island after a pair of strong efforts from goaltender Carey Price. Following his third shutout of the season Sunday against Winnipeg, he earned a 3-2 shootout win against Pittsburgh, Montreal's second in nine such games this season.

"We got a few breaks that we didn't get earlier in the season," Price said. "If we remember what we did the last couple of games that made us successful, I think that's the biggest thing and being able to find that consistency."

Price, 4-2-0 with a 1.82 GAA over his last six games, has allowed four goals in each of his two games in Long Island and is 3-1-2 with a 3.13 GAA in six lifetime matchups.

Nabokov, meanwhile, is 5-2-0 with a 2.81 GAA in eight career starts against Montreal but had to leave eight minutes into a 4-3 home win Nov. 17 because of a groin injury. Al Montoya was outdueled by Price during a 5-3 loss at the Bell Centre on Dec. 13, his only start against the Canadiens.

Montreal snapped a three-game skid in the series with that victory.

Nabokov is seeking his 306th win, which would push him past former Islanders great Billy Smith for 22nd on the all-time list, but he might need to watch out for Tomas Plekanec. The center has a 10-game point streak against New York, and Erik Cole has scored in four straight matchups.