NEW YORK ISLANDERS (16-9-2) AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (15-11-3)
7 P.M. PPG PAINTS ARENA
TV: MSG+ MSG GO
RADIO: 88.7FM, 101.9FM, 660AM
Two big points are on the line as the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins meet for the first time this season (7 p.m., MSG+ MSG GO).
The Metropolitan Division rivals are separated by a single point, as the Isles (16-9-2 - 34 points) are one up on the Penguins (15-11-3 - 33 points). On one hand, December seems a little early to be watching the standings, but consider that only four points separate first from sixth in the Metro division, giving extra importance to divisional games.
The Islanders are looking to bounce back from a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night and so far this season, the Isles have not gone consecutive games without a point.
The Islanders went 2-1-1 against the Penguins last season, winning their most recent visit to Steel City.
ISLES LOOKING TO SHORE UP PK:
The Islanders will have to shore up their penalty kill when they take one of the league's top power plays on Thursday. Pittsburgh owns the NHL's fourth-ranked power play (25.68%), while the Islanders are the NHL's 30th-ranked penalty kill (75%).
A recent slump has dragged the Isles PK numbers down, as the shorthanded unit has allowed two goals in each of the past three games, going 5-for-11 over that span. The recent flood of power-play goals against coincides with the absence of Casey Cizikas, who has missed four games with a lower-body injury. The loss of Cizikas is a further blow to the shorthanded unit, coming after Nikolay Kulemin's season-ending upper-body injury a month ago.
UPDATE: Cizikas will return to the lineup on Thursday.
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal for the Islanders. Halak has won three straight starts.
Johnny Boychuk (injury) and Alan Quine (illness) are both out for Thursday's game, while Thomas Hickey and Casey Cizikas are back in. Cizikas is returning after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
Click here for morning skate updates and projected lines.
BY THE NUMBERS:
4 - game point streak for John Tavares. The Islanders captain has two goals and two assists over that span.
31 - points for John Tavares and Josh Bailey. Tavares and Bailey lead the Islanders in scoring this season.
Like the Islanders, the Penguins have allowed a lot of goals this season, allowing an average of 3.24 goals-per-game this season.
Phil Kessel leads the Penguins - and is tied for fifth in the NHL - with 34 points (13G, 21A) in 29 games this season. Patric Hornqvist is the hottest Penguin, with eight points (4G, 4A) during a six-game streak.
Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz left Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers with a lower-body injury and was absent for Wednesday's practice. According to the Penguins' official site, Schultz is unlikely to play vs the Islanders.
UPDATE: Schultz was placed on IR and is out for Thursday's game.
Tristan Jarry will make his fourth straight start - and sixth straight appearance - in goal for the Penguins as starter Matt Murray is out with a lower-body injury. Jarry is 4-1-2 this season with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage