Undefeated Isles Prepare To Face The Penguins

The New York Islanders (4-0-0) will look to continue their winning ways tonight when they visit another Metropolitan Division rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) at the Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins are going to look to come out strong from the gate after a heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Thursday night. The Pens were headed to overtime with the Stars, but Tyler Seguin would score a power play goal with only 3 seconds remaining on the clock while Sidney Crosby sat in the penalty box.

A tough loss to swallow will likely have Crosby and Co. fired up and ready to go on home ice from the second the puck is dropped.

The Isles are coming off a hard-fought victory over the San Jose Sharks, who were also 3-0-0 heading into their match-up on Thursday night. Josh Bailey gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead in the third period, but a tying goal by Tomas Hertl would ultimately force overtime and a shootout. Fortunately for the Isles, John Tavares provided some Patrick Kane-esque moves to lift the Isles to a 4-3 win.

That win has put the Islanders in sole possession of first place in the league. Although it is incredibly early in the season (Isles fans need to remember that there are 78 more games to go, including tonight’s tilt), moving along to 5-0-0 while defeating another division rival would be a momentous accomplishment heading into next week.  

However, the Isles will be without Mikhail Grabovski, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury after running into Sharks enforcer John Scott. It has been reported by Arthur Staple of Newsday that Grabovski does not have a concussion, which is good news since that was the initial concern.

Staple has also tweeted that it does not appear that the coaching staff will be calling up anyone from Bridgeport. Colin McDonald, who has been a healthy scratch, will likely dress on the fourth line tonight. This bumps Cal Clutterbuck up to the third line, with Bailey moving up to the second line.

This provides Bailey a golden opportunity to continue his short-lived offensive streak (two goals in the last three games). Since scoring his first goal against the Hurricanes last week, Bailey has shown sporadic glimpses of confidence that may pave the way for him to find his scoring touch.

Prior to scoring the third goal of the game on Thursday night, Bailey had two or three close opportunities that were either stopped by the Sharks’ net-minder, or were blocked in front. Plus he will be on a line with Brock Nelson, who has been on fire to start the season with 7 points in 4 games, and Ryan Strome, who has quietly put up 4 assists since opening night.

This will be the Pens’ first look at some new faces in orange and blue sweaters, but the same can be said for the Isles as well. Over the off-season, the Penguins added Patric Hornqivst from the Nashville Predators in exchange for James Neal, while also adding Christian Ehrhoff to help replace departed d-men Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.  

Jaroslav Halak, who has given the Penguins headaches in the past, is expected to be between the pipes for the Islanders.

Tonight should provide for a very exciting match-up with two of the best current teams in the Eastern Conference going head-to-head.

Puck drop is at 7 PM.

-Rob McGowan

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