The Montreal Canadiens continue to surge after putting together their first three-game winning streak of the season. Andrei Kostitsyn has been a huge part of that.
Kostitsyn and the Canadiens (6-2-1) will try to sweep a home-and-home set with the New York Islanders, who are looking forward to getting back on their home ice.
Kostitsyn enters the game with four goals and two assists over his previous three games after recording one of each in a 5-3 win Wednesday night. Montreal improved to 6-0-1 against the Islanders when the Russian scores at least one point.
Since the beginning of 2007-08, the Canadiens are 10-0-3 versus the Islanders, outscoring them 48-23.
Carey Price made 18 saves as he won his third straight start for the first time since Dec 27-30, 2008. Price, though, will give way to Alex Auld as he makes his Canadiens debut following his offseason signing.
"I've been waiting for this, and I'm really happy to get to play. Whenever you make your first start with a new team it's always an exciting moment," Auld told the team's official site.
Auld's last start came March 6 with the Rangers in a 2-0 loss to Washington, but coach Jacques Martin is more than confident in his ability between the pipes.
"I think Auld will be ready to play. He works very hard with our goaltending coach and puts a lot of effort into every practice," Martin said . "He also has a lot of experience with this kind of scenario and schedule."
Auld has lost four straight starts to the Islanders since his last win against them Jan. 14, 2006.
Andrei Markov also is expected to make his season debut Saturday for Montreal. The veteran defenseman, who had 34 points in 45 games last season, underwent knee surgery in May.
New York (4-3-2) returns home after a four-game road trip, where it has yet to lose in regulation through three games (2-0-1).
Fresh off his first hat trick, John Tavares scored his team-leading sixth goal Wednesday night on the man advantage as he cut the Canadiens' lead to one 13 seconds into the third period. The second-year center enters this game with a career high-tying five-game points streak.
"We just weren't very sharp and they were able to generate a lot of offense over our own mistakes" Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 30 of 34 shots as he fell to 2-2-0. He is 3-3-2 with one tie and a 2.80 goals-against average lifetime versus Montreal.
Teammate Rick DiPietro, who hasn't started at home since Oct. 11, has lost four straight against the Canadiens and is 4-9-0 overall against them.
Josh Bailey missed the previous two games with a hip pointer but returned to action Wednesday night and should be available for Friday night's matchup.
On Thursday, the Islanders decided to send fifth overall pick Nino Niederreiter down to the Portland Winterhawks on Thursday.
"I had a great experience up here, and I was really happy to be here," Niederreiter said. "I think it's better to go back to juniors, get a little bit more experience of being a big leader up there. In the end, I think it's the right decision."
Niederreiter, who had two points in nine games, became the youngest player in team history to record a goal at 18 years and 35 days.