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Islanders showing positive signs

New York Islanders' Matt Moulson looks to pass

New York Islanders' Matt Moulson looks to pass during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. (Dec. 2, 2011) Credit: AP

The Islanders have gone from a team in search of anything positive to one that could be forming a bit of an identity.

The 3-0-1 road trip that ended with Saturday night's 5-4 win over the Stars featured one-goal wins in Newark, Buffalo and Pacific Division-leading Dallas, plus a third-period rally to earn a point in a shootout loss in Chicago. It demonstrated a lot more character and heart than the Islanders had shown in six weeks.

What sort of price they paid will be better known Monday, when the team reconvenes at the Coliseum for practice to kick off a week of three home games, beginning with the Lightning Tuesday and finishing with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Saturday.

Nino Niederreiter was officially diagnosed with a concussion after taking a forearm to the head by Stars defenseman Mark Fistric on Saturday. He will be further evaluated Monday, but concussion protocol dictates that he miss at least a few days and more likely the entire week.

Michael Grabner and Rick DiPietro, each with groin injuries, also weren't able to finish Saturday's game. DiPietro, who was pulled after allowing four goals in the second period but was credited with the win in the 5-4 Isles victory, said he felt OK after the game. Grabner didn't want to discuss his injury. Both of them will be examined Monday.

Andrew MacDonald (leg bruise) missed both games this past weekend but might be ready to return Tuesday. Without MacDonald, who leads the team with 60 blocked shots, the Isles' defense gutted through a couple of up-and-down performances. "We blocked 28 shots tonight," coach Jack Capuano said. His first mention after the game was that number, not the four goals Matt Moulson scored. Moulson had the 28th block, getting his foot on Jamie Benn's last-second shot to seal it.

"That's something we spoke about, getting in the shooting lanes," Capuano said. "We were a little fatigued at the end, but we found a way."

After the 3-10-4 slide that dropped the Isles to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the current four-game point streak has them out of the cellar and back within shouting distance of the rest of the conference.

John Tavares, who hasn't had a goal in 13 games but has five assists in his last two games, said: "It's nice to see us respond when things aren't always going our way."

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