Islanders Hit The Steel City Looking To Keep Points Streak Alive Versus The Penguins

 

The Islanders head to Pittsburgh to take on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center.

Both teams enter this contest off of victories. For New York, it was a 5-2 home win over the Washington Capitals. For Pittsburgh, it was a shootout victory in Toronto against the Leafs.

Pittsburgh, winners of four straight, have really played well since an early season 4-1 loss to the Isles. The Penguins have a record of 17-8-0, good for 34 points, second in the conference to Montreal.

They are lead, as always, by star center Sidney Crosby. Crosby has 12 goals and 28 assists for 40 points. He leads the National Hockey League in assists and points.

However, the scoring doesn't stop with Crosby.

The Pens have five players, counting Crosby, who are averaging at least a point per game this season. Left winger Chris Kunitz has 31 points, fellow left winger James Neal has 25 points, defenseman Kris Letang has 24 points and star center Evgeni Malkin has 24 points. (Photo credit: flikr/Alex Olsen Design)

Malkin, however, didn't finish last night's game in Toronto. According to coach Dan Bylsma, he suffered an upper body injury and would be reevaluated today. His status for tonight's game versus New York isn't clear.

What is clear is that New York is on a roll as well.

The Isles have points in 5 straight games leaving the team with a record of 11-11-3, good for 25 points. They are currently tied for 9th, only one point out of a playoff spot and six points out of fifth in the conference.

For the Isles, star centerman John Tavares leads the way. Tavares had two goals in yesterday's victory over the Capitals on home ice. He now has 29 points which includes 16 goals. Those 16 goals have him tied for third in the league. (Photo credit: flikr/Robert Kowal)

The Isles have struggled with scoring outside of Tavares' top line, but last night they got goals from Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen. If that can continue to happen, it will go a long way towards helping the team win, especially tonight in Pittsburgh.

Expect the Islanders to keep the forward lines intact for tonight's game. The team will warm up seven defensemen so it will be a game time decision on who sits and who plays. It makes some sense to go with the pairings that have been effective over the last couple of games.

In net, the Islanders will start Evgeni Nabokov yet again. Despite playing yesterday, the veteran netminder has been sharp, and is tied for fourth in the league with 11 victories. Bear in mind also that yesterday was a matinee, so there is actually a day and a half between games.

Pittsburgh started Marc-Andre Fleury last night against Toronto, so expect them to put veteran Tomas Vokoun between the pipes tonight.

Getting a victory tonight would propel the Islanders into a playoff spot if the Rangers fall in today's game against Washington.

However, winning in Pittsburgh tonight is no small feat. If Malkin doesn't play, it certainly helps New York's chances.

Look for Pittsburgh to storm out of the gates and try to get the Isles down early. If the Isles can weather that early storm, stay calm and play their game, they can bring home a win. It will be important for the Islanders to control the action in their own zone, getting to loose pucks first and clearing the zone.

If they can do that, the Isles will be in good position to get some points because the offense has been very good this season. If the let Pittsburgh take it to them and get an early lead, it will be difficult to come back.

The Isles have been great on the road this season, a sign that they focus really well without the distractions of home. Expect them to come out strong and play the Pens tough. If they can score first and play sound defensively, the Islanders should be able to come away with some points.  

-Donovan Brooks

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