Islanders-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

The Montreal Canadiens are struggling to score, and it's costing them.

The New York Islanders may be starting to sympathize.

The Canadiens look to end their longest losing streak of the season Sunday night when they host the Islanders in a matchup of struggling teams.

Montreal (8-8-1) is averaging 1.9 goals during a 3-6-1 stretch, a significant drop from its 3.6 average through the first seven games of the season.

Scoring has been a particular issue during the Canadiens' four-game skid, during which they've totaled seven goals.

"If you're not getting out of your zone clean, if you're not coming through the neutral zone with speed, you're not going to be able to generate much in today's game," captain Brian Gionta told the team's official website. "You're not going to be able to establish a forecheck.

"When we're on our game, we're able to use our speed, open the ice up and create goals."

That certainly didn't happen Thursday, when Montreal fell 4-1 at Ottawa despite outshooting the Senators 34-24. The Canadiens haven't dropped five in a row since Feb. 19-28, 2012.

"We have to get a win. It's never easy when you lose several games in a row, but we'll be ready," defenseman Douglas Murray said. "If we win our battles, get into the high traffic areas and grab the loose pucks, we'll have a chance to produce more offensively."

Tomas Plekanec ended a three-game pointless streak with an assist Thursday. A return home could get him going since he's tallied nine of his 12 points there.

Plekanec has 13 points over his last 12 home meetings with the Islanders, but none in the past two - both losses for Montreal.

Reining Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban has nine points in 10 career games versus New York, including three goals and an assist in the last two.

He's been one of the team's few offensive producers of late, with five points in four games.

Like Montreal, the Islanders (6-8-3) are having a tough time generating offense, as they've been outscored 12-4 while losing the first three of this four-game road trip.

Special teams continue to be a major problem. Their league-worst penalty has a dismal 74.1 success rate while the power play is 0 for 22 over the past seven games.

New York failed on its only power play Saturday, while the penalty kill gave up a pair of goals in a 5-2 loss at Columbus.

"Our penalty kill let us down again," coach Jack Capuano said.

Injuries are also a problem with Brian Strait (upper body), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) sidelined. Tomas Vanek will join them after suffering an upper-body injury on his first shift Saturday.

Frans Nielsen scored his team-leading ninth goal against the Blue Jackets, five coming in eight road games. He has a goal in each of his last two visits to Montreal.

John Tavares, who has five points in five games, also seems to enjoy facing Montreal. The captain has 11 points over his last 11 matchups, including five in the past three.

Kevin Poulin is expected to get the start in net for the Islanders. The Montreal native has allowed one goal in each of his last two starts overall, but allowed five on 29 shots in his only appearance against the Canadiens, a 5-2 home loss March 21.