They’re Back: Islanders Look to Continue Recent Surge Against Penguins

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NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins

The New York Islanders completed their franchise record tying seven game road trip in grand style on Sunday with a 6-4 victory over the New York Rangers. It capped off a trip in which they took twelve of a possible fourteen points. The team is hoping their good fortune against Metropolitan Division opponents, who they are a combined 12-5-3 against, continues this evening as the streaking Islanders are set to face off against a hot Pittsburgh Penguins team.

The four point swing tonight’s game offers will have a major impact on the Metropolitan Division standings. The Islanders enter today’s action in third place, but only three points separates the blue and orange from both the second place Rangers and the fourth place Penguins. The Islanders have games in hand over both opponents. A victory tonight can keep the Islanders focused on fighting for home ice adavantage in the first round of the playoffs and not fighting for their playoff lives.

The Penguins have been racking up victories lately and most of their wins have been of the lopsided variety. Pittsburgh’s latest victory was also on Sunday, a 6-1 victory at New Jersey. Evgeni Malkin scored twice in the Penguin’s fourth victory in six games. A key victory over the Rangers has also been part of this recent stretch. The Islanders, who have allowed twelve goals in the last four games, will need to tighten up against an explosive Pittsburgh offense.

The Islanders and Penguins last met on January 2nd, the first game following Johnny Boychuk’s injury, in Pittsburgh. The Penguins ended a four game losing streak and handed the Isles a 5-2 loss. Sidney Crosby scored twice and Marc Andre Fleury made 38 saves. The one silver lining to the Isles loss was Nick Leddy’s first goal of the season.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Carl Hagelin will be out of the lineup Tuesday for the second straight game because of precautionary reasons. Pittsburgh’s offense remains explosive without him. The Islanders remain banged up at defense. Marek Zidlicky and Calvin de Haan will not skate. Brian Strait and Ryan Pulock are the third defensive pairing.

Despite some recent struggles, Jaroslav Halak is the goalie of choice for coach Jack Capuano against a high powered Penguins offense. Halak allowed three third-period goals on six shots in a 3-1 loss at the Edmonton Oilers last Sunday. The Islanders raced out to a 3-0 lead against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, but Halak allowed three goals in the first period before settling down in a 6-4 victory. Thomas Greiss is 7-0-1 in his past eight starts and has a .930 save percentage this season.

Players to Watch:

Islanders: John Tavares – He scored in the Islanders earlier loss against the Penguins and has three goals and three assists in a four-game point streak in the series. However, the Islanders captain has gone five games without a goal and managed just two shots Monday.

Penguins: Sidney Crosby – Crosby scored two power-play goals in the first meeting with New York and has three goals and six helpers on his current five-game point streak.

Game Notes:

Hot Hands: Nick Leddy has 14 points (1G, 13A) in his last 16 games. Casey Cizikas (3G, 7A) has 10 points in his last 11 games. Kyle Okposo has 16 points (5G, 11A) in his last 15 games. John Tavares has 20 points (8G, 12A) in his last 15 games, including six mutli-point games.

Chasing 200: On March 3 at Winnipeg, head coach Jack Capuano recorded his 200th NHL career win. Capuano, the 2nd winningest coach in Islanders history, is 200-168-53 behind the Islander bench. Also chasing career milestone #200 is goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who’s at 199 career NHL wins, and Captain John Tavares, who sits at 197 goals.

NHL Debut: Former first-round pick Ryan Pulock made his NHL debut on Sunday in Edmonton (Feb. 28 at EDM). Prior to playing with the Islanders, the Dauphin, Manitoba native was named to two straight AHL All-Star games in 2015 and 2016 (missed both due to injury). Pulock was named to the 2014- 15 AHL All-Rookie Team.

Shootout Thrillers: Frans Nielsen recorded his 42nd career shootout goal on Feb. 9 in Columbus, breaking a tie with Radim Vrbata for the all-time NHL lead. The Isles lead the NHL in all-time shootout wins with 68 (Pittsburgh/Buffalo 66). ‘

Killin’ It: The Islanders currently boast the NHL’s second-best penalty kill unit. They have killed 108-of-120 penalties over their last 41 games. That stretch included a franchise record 15 straight games without allowing a power-play goal; New York went a perfect 42-for-42.

Heavy Hitters: Matt Martin leads the NHL in hits with 300. Linemate Cal Clutterbuck is just behind him with 225. Martin has led the NHL in this category each of the last four seasons, while Clutterbuck led the league the three season prior to that (2008-09 -2010-11). The Islanders as a team currently lead the NHL in hits with 1,837. Five Guys: Sunday’s win (March 6 at NYR) marked the 12th time this season New York has scored five or more goals in a game. The Islanders’ improved to 12-0-0 in games when they score five or more goals.

Division Dominance: This season, New York is 12-5-3 against division foes. Last season, the Islanders finished 21-6-3 against the Metropolitan Division. Overtime: Last season the Islanders went 14-7 in overtime (6-1 OT, 7-6 SO). The Islanders are currently 7-7 in overtimes this season (3-4 OT, 4-3 SO).

Under Capuano: Jack Capuano began the season as the NHL’s fourth-longest tenured coach with his current team. The Islanders are 201-168-52 under Capuano. He ranks second on the Islanders all-time list in both games coached (422) and wins (201), behind Al Arbour (1,500 coached, 740 wins).

Projected Lineups:

Brock NelsonJohn TavaresRyan Strome
Josh BaileyFrans NielsenKyle Okposo
Anders LeeNikolay KuleminShane Prince
Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk
Thomas HickeyTravis Hamonic
Brian StraitRyan Pulock

Jaroslav Halak
Thomas Greiss

Scott WilsonSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist
Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Tom KuhnhacklNick BoninoBryan Rust
Tom Sestito – Matt Cullen – Conor Sheary

Olli MaattaKris Letang
Brian DumoulinTrevor Daley
Justin SchultzIan Cole

Marc-Andre Fleury
Matthew Murray

Injured: Carl Hagelin (undisclosed), Beau Bennett (upper body), Eric Fehr (lower body), Ben Lovejoy(upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle surgery)
Scratched: Derrick Pouliot, Jeff Zatkoff



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