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Isles face tough challenge against Kings after win over depleted Ducks

Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo gets by Los

Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo gets by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov as he looks for an open man during the first period. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: AP

LOS ANGELES - The Islanders weren't expecting the same sort of lineup breaks from the Kings on Thursday night that they got in Anaheim on Wednesday.

But perhaps the hard-earned 3-2 overtime win the Isles took from the depleted Ducks was a reminder that nothing comes without effort out West.

"You have to expect them to be desperate. You have to expect an even harder game from them," Jack Capuano said of his reaction about an hour before game time Wednesday, when he and the Islanders learned that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the Ducks' two top players, would be out with the flu.

Add that to the Isles facing journeyman Jason LaBarbera in the Anaheim goal and it seemed like an easy night. But the Isles needed John Tavares' overtime power-play goal and a strong effort from Jaroslav Halak to secure two points.

"We had a good game plan and we played well for 30 minutes," said Halak, who faced only six Ducks shots through 27:21 and then 28 after that. "But after we gave up the power-play goal, we kind of backed up a little."

There could be none of that against the Kings on Thursday night. They were without veteran Justin Williams, but the rest of the Stanley Cup championship crew was intact, including goaltender Jonathan Quick.

The Islanders had a chance Thursday night to do something they haven't done in more than a decade: Pick up points in consecutive games in California.

Capuano made a couple of changes, putting Casey Cizikas back in the lineup after a one-game benching to replace Cory Conacher and replacing Halak, who has been solid the past two games, with Chad Johnson.

Johnson was not sharp in the 5-0 loss to the Avalanche in Denver to open this road trip, and the reason he played that game was because Halak had not been sharp in a 4-3 loss to the Jets at the Coliseum two days prior.

In the two games since, Johnson says not only has the goaltending improved, but the defensive play has improved.

"One thing Jaro and I were talking about is not giving up those two bad goals, like we had been doing," Johnson said. "You let in one or two bad ones, plus two, three 'good' goals and you have a hard time winning.

"We weren't giving up a ton of chances, but they were Grade A chances. I think we've been better the last two games at not just limiting chances, but limiting the good chances."

A healthier penalty kill would help that as well. Despite the win on Wednesday, the Islanders' last-place penalty kill dropped even further, allowing Matt Beleskey's power-play goal to jump-start the Ducks in the second period. The goal came with six seconds left in the power play and only after Travis Hamonic left Beleskey alone for a second to retrieve a stick.

"I thought the guys took the right routes, had good sticks -- but Hammer gets out of position for a second and they score," said Cizikas, one of the regular penalty-killing forwards. "That's the way it's been going for us. We have a big challenge tonight against a team here that has a lot of guys who can score."

Notes & quotes: Conacher, who had a goal and assist in 12 games, was a healthy scratch for the first time. Cizikas started the game on a line with Matt Martin and Eric Boulton, while Ryan Strome moved back to the wing with Brock Nelson and Anders Lee.

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