Panthers-Islanders Preview

The Associated Press

A rare road win helped the Florida Panthers gain sole possession of the Southeast Division lead.

A trip to Long Island is no guarantee that the Panthers can keep picking up points.

Florida tries to win back-to-back road games for the first time in more than two months Sunday when the New York Islanders look to continue their playoff push.

After tying Washington atop the division standings with Thursday's 3-1 home win over Los Angeles, Florida (26-17-11) took a two-point lead over the idle Capitals on Saturday with a 3-1 victory at New Jersey.

It was just Florida's second road win in 12 games.

"Very satisfying win built on team effort,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "We got a lot of quality minutes out of players.''

Kris Versteeg netted his team-high 21st goal - one shy of his career high set in 2008-09 with Chicago - and has seven points in the last seven games after recording one in his previous nine.

"I think Steeger is a big game player, a big-game goal scorer," Dineen said. "He played on both sides of special teams."

The Panthers, who last won consecutive road games on Dec. 3 and 8, have won four of six overall this month. Scott Clemmensen has been in net for all of those contests, turning aside 49 of 51 shots in the last two.

"That's what you need for your goaltender,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said of Clemmensen, who could make his first start against the Islanders this season. "It was an important game for us. It is important to get wins.''

New York (23-23-8) finds itself in a similar position as it pursues its first playoff berth since 2007. The Islanders, who trail eighth-place Toronto by eight points in the Eastern Conference, have points in nine of 11 games following Saturday's 2-1 overtime victory over the Kings.

"Every game is so important for us right now,'' coach Jack Capuano said after his club ended a three-game skid at Nassau Coliseum. "Fortunately, we got these two points.''

Continued production from captain Mark Streit could help the Islanders pick up even more. The Swiss defenseman, who missed all of 2010-11 with a shoulder injury, has found the back of the net in back-to-back games after scoring the game-winner Saturday.

"The first forty games (this season) were kind of a bumpy ride," he said. "Lately it's been way better. It's starting to come back together again."

Streit did not find the scoresheet in a 2-0 season-opening home loss to the Panthers on Oct. 8, but he had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 loss at Florida two weeks later.

Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in that defeat - his first since joining the club. The former San Jose Shark has won seven of his last nine starts after making 34 saves Saturday, but it's uncertain if he'll get the nod for the fourth straight game due to the quick turnaround.

If Al Montoya is in net, it will be his second appearance versus Florida this season. He made 27 saves in the season opener.

Panthers left wing Tomas Fleischmann has an assist in each of his last three games versus New York. He is one point shy of 200.

Florida, winner of 14 of 19 overall in this series, goes for its first season sweep on Long Island since 2007-08.

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