Already mired in a miserable six-game losing streak, the New York Islanders must now deal with the extended absence of their top goaltender.
Rick DiPietro is expected to miss at least six weeks for the Islanders, who will try to end their slide with a matchup against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Nassau Coliseum.
After alternating wins with losses through the first four games of the season, New York (2-7-1) has gone 0-5-1 -- its longest slide since losing seven in a row (0-6-1) from Jan. 24-Feb. 9.
Prior to Saturday's 5-4 defeat to Montreal, the Islanders announced that DiPietro would be sidelined for four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Friday to repair a torn meniscus in one of his knees.
The franchise goaltender -- in the third season of a landmark 15-year deal -- had been limited to three appearances in 2008-09 as he continued to recover from offseason operations on both his hip and knee. He suffered the additional injury during the first period of a 4-3 loss to Carolina on Oct. 25.
Joey MacDonald had been receiving most of the playing time in DiPietro's absence, with unimpressive results. McDonald is 2-4-1 with a 3.42 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
On Saturday, the Islanders started third-stringer Yann Danis, who made 27 saves in his first NHL appearance since playing six games for Montreal during the 2005-06 season. However, New York was unable to protect a 4-1 lead, allowing four unanswered Canadiens goals in the third period.
"For two periods, we really played well," said defenseman Mark Streit, who scored in the first period. "Then we didn't skate anymore. We just waited. We gave them space and time. We didn't forecheck, we didn't backcheck. We just watched."
New York could be catching a break against a Columbus team that fell to 1-3-1 in its last five games with Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss at home to Chicago. Kristian Huselius scored the game-tying goal with 12:08 left in regulation, but was one of three Blue Jackets to falter in the shootout.
The loss wasn't due to a lack of opportunity. The Blue Jackets totaled 51 shots -- a season high and two shy of the franchise record -- and had 10 power-play opportunities but converted on only one of them.
"You don't want to waste efforts like (Saturday night); this is now five games in a row that we've had great effort," coach Ken Hitchcock told the Blue Jackets' official Web site. "We have three points to show for it and that's the frustrating part."
The Blue Jackets are 6-1-0 with a tie in the all-time series against the Islanders, although the lone loss came in the most recent meeting -- a 4-0 defeat on Dec. 23, 2006 at Nassau Coliseum.
Fredrik Norrena was in net for Columbus in that loss, and is expected to be there again Monday while starter Pascal Leclaire deals with an ankle injury. Norrena, who made 21 saves on Saturday, is 1-3-1 with a 3.00 GAA in seven games.