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November and Islanders aren't friendly Live


by Casey Musarra


BY ARTHUR STAPLE

Montreal — Is this becoming yet another Long Islanders November?

With Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets, the Isles are 2-3-0 in November, emphasis on that middle number, since they’ve lost three straight heading into Sunday’s game with the Canadiens.

November has been the worst Isles month over the past three seasons -- with February of last season standing in for a usual November, since the season started in January. But the pattern persisted even through the 48-game schedule: A decent, uneven but mostly positive start, followed by a collapse.

This year’s Isles were supposed to be different. They were supposed to have learned from the mistakes of 2010-11, when Scott Gordon was fired in November during the horrific 1-17-3 slide. They should have learned from 2011-12, when a 4-7-2 November essentially killed their hoped-for breakout season, with their key players at full health.

Last season, they did get it figured out, at least well enough to get into the No. 8 seed and a playoff spot with an 11-2-4 finish.

But those sorts of mad dashes are rare in the NHL. The standings numbers don’t lie: It’s near impossible to get off the mat if you’re four or more points out by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

The Isles have benefited from every Metropolitan Division team, save the Penguins, struggling through the first month, but the Caps and the Rangers are starting to get themselves sorted out.

That makes Saturday’s loss so tough to take. Columbus came in with zero confidence, having lost five straight; the Isles didn’t play well by any means through 40 minutes, but they were tied, which meant they could have gutted out a point or two.

Just 3:24 into the third, they were done, down two goals after a retaliation penalty by Travis Hamonic (whatever you think of the call, Hamonic can’t put it on a judgment decision by the ref) and a miserably played three-on-three rush.

Thomas Vanek is out tonight, though his injury does not appear to be a long-term one. That leaves Brock Nelson in, perhaps Cal Clutterbuck if his injury is OK. I’d imagine Radek Martinek will play for Matt Carkner, who banged his knee pretty hard in the third.

Even with Vanek out, the Isles can score enough to win a game here. The Canadiens are scuffling too, sitting at .500. The Isles saved their season here in February, rallying from a 2-0 hole to win in overtime.

There’s 64 more after Sunday, but this one might be a season-saver as well.

Isles' recent November records:

09-10 -- 7-6-2
10-11 -- 1-7-3
11-12 -- 4-7-2
12-13* -- 4-9-1
13-14 -- 2-3-0

(* -- was actually February)

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