ISLANDERS (8-11-3) vs. PENGUINS (14-8-0)
TV: MSG PLUS, ROOT
Last 10: New York 4-6-0; Pittsburgh 6-4-0
Season series: The New York Islanders make their second and final visit of the season to Consol Energy Center when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. The teams last met Oct. 25, a 4-3 Islanders win during which they overcame two third-period deficits. Although the Islanders were 0-11-2 in Pittsburgh between 2008 and 2011, they are 3-3-0 in their past six trips, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Islanders and Penguins play twice more at Nassau Coliseum, Dec. 3 and Jan. 23.
Big story: New York was expected to contend for a playoff berth a season after falling to the Penguins in six games in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series last spring. Instead, the Islanders sit in last place in the Metropolitan Division. Although forward Thomas Vanek (upper-body injury) is expected to return Friday, the Islanders remain thin on defense and nearly powerless against the power play. New York's penalty kill is 30th in the League at 71.6 percent.
"There's not a lot left to be said," defenseman Travis Hamonic said after the Islanders' 5-2 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. "We had a really good effort against Detroit [a 5-4 shootout win on Saturday], and we come up here and [fell short]. We're not reinventing the wheel here. We just have to go play."
Islanders: Following the loss in Toronto, the Islanders held a closed-door meeting for the second time in 10 days. Things may not be looking up on the Island at the moment, but it's important to note the Islanders were 9-11-2 after 22 games last season before going 15-6-5 in their final 26 games. There's plenty of time for the Islanders to right themselves, but to take a big step forward they must correct their issues in the third period, where they've been outscored 17-4 in their past 12 games.
"We have a lot to prove still and we're still a growing team and we need to find our game on a consistent level," captain John Tavares told Newsday. "[We need to] be better in a lot the gritty areas, things that top teams do really well, and we don't do that enough."
Penguins: Pittsburgh's dominant 4-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday snapped a three-game road losing streak. Sidney Crosby had a goal and assist, and Evgeni Malkin had two assists, but the Penguins' defensive play was the impetus behind the victory. They limited the high-octane Capitals to 18 shots on goal and have allowed just 29 goals in their past 14 games.
"We didn't give up a lot," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We didn't give them opportunities to use their speed and space. I thought it was tough for them to get through there."
Who's hot: Tavares' point-scoring streak ended at five games Tuesday. He has five goals and 12 points in November. Casey Cizikas is on a three-game goal scoring streak. Frans Nielsen had a goal against the Leafs and has 22 points in 22 games. … Crosby has points in four of his past five games (three goals, two assists). Marc-Andre Fleury earned his second shutout Wednesday to improve to 13-6-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
Injury report: Islanders defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) remain out indefinitely. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov (strained groin) will miss at least a month. … Penguins forward Chuck Kobasew skated on his own three times Thursday and Bylsma is hoping he'll return to practice in a few days. Defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle surgery) is progressing but isn't projected to return until close to Christmas. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot in hip) is out indefinitely.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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