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Game Preview: Islanders at Penguins

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders take their perfect record into Pittsburgh Saturday, as they take on the Penguins in the first of five meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals.


The Islanders-Penguins rivalry has developed an edge over the past couple of seasons, ramping up with the infamous brawl in 2011 and a gritty playoff series in 2013. Head Coach Jack Capuano said channeling those emotions in a productive way and staying out of the box will be a key for his team.

“We have to make sure that we're disciplined in all areas of our game. That's number one,” Capuano said. “Number two is you're going to have to match their intensity level. It's a great atmosphere to play in, there. They have a lot of offensive firepower. They're a healthy group.”

Despite a 4-0-0 start, John Tavares told NewYorkIslanders.com that the Islanders are still looking to prove themselves and that a win in Pittsburgh would go a long way. Capuano concurred with his captain.

“It's a good test for our hockey team. A lot of people picked [the Penguins] to get back to the Stanley Cup and a good way to measure ourselves."

Still, the Islanders are coming in hot, having won four straight, including three games vs. Metropolitan Division opponents and a solid 4-3 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks. Tavares leads the NHL with nine points (2G, 7A) and the Islanders also lead the NHL in goals for with 19.

While Tavares has been a revelation, secondary scoring has been key for the Islanders, who have seven players with two or more goals and 10 players with at least two points. Brock Nelson is tops on the team with four goals and Kyle Okposo has seven points (2G, 5A) in four games.

The Penguins took three-of-four games vs. the Islanders last season, but with new faces in goal, on defense and a power play that has scored in four straight games (6-for-14), the Islanders are bringing a new look to Pittsburgh.

Like the Islanders, the Penguins made some personnel changes in the offseason, acquiring Patric Hornqvist from the Nashville Predators in exchange for James Neal. Hornqvist is off to a good start and has five points (2G, 3A) skating on the Penguins top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. The Penguins also added veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff this season, a proven scorer from the back end, though Moers, Germany native only has one point through Pittsburgh’s first three games.

Crosby leads the Penguins in goals (four) and points (seven), two behind Islanders captain John Tavares for the league lead. Evgeni Malkin is first on the team with four assists and second in points with five.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.


New York Islanders
4-0-0 (8 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, 1st in Eastern Conference)
2-0-0 road
Pittsburgh Penguins
2-1-0 (4 points - 4th in Metropolitan Division, 7th in Eastern Conference)
1-1-0 home
7:00  p.m.
CONSOL Energy Center
Pittsburgh, PA

Television:
MSG PLUS
Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King; Color: Greg Picker
Islanders News:
- Four Up, Four Down: Isles Start 4-0 (Oct. 17)
- Isles TV: The Breakdown: Bailey vs. Stalock (Oct. 17)
- Islanders 4, Sharks 3 (SO); Highlights (Oct. 16)
- de Haan Activated; Reinhart to Bridgeport (Oct. 16)
Islanders player to watch
Kyle Okposo - Forward

Kyle Okposo has picked up right where he left off after a breakout season. Okposo is second in Islanders scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists) in four games and has recorded three straight multi-point games. The Islanders assistant captain potted his 100th career goal Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Okposo scored six points (three goals, three assists) in four games vs. the Penguins last season.
Penguins player to watch
Sidney Crosby - Forward

Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his status as the world’s top player last season, winning the Art Ross, Ted Lindsay and Hart Trophies. Crosby led the league with 104 points (36G, 68A) in his first full season since the 2009-10 campaign. The Coal Harbour, NS, native has 83 points (25G, 58A) in 45 career games against the Islanders. Crosby leads the Penguins with seven points (four goals, three assists) in three games this season.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
89 Cory Conacher 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski
29 Brock Nelson – 18 Ryan Strome
12 Josh Bailey
51 Frans Nielsen – 86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
3 Travis Hamonic
44 Calvin de Haan 37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Pittsburgh Penguins previous game lines
Forwards
14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
9 Pascal Dupuis - 16 Brandon Sutter - 71 Evgeni Malkin
17 Blake Comeau - 57 Marcel Goc - 23 Steve Downie
38 Zach Sill - 13 Nick Spaling - 27 Craig Adams

Defensemen
10 Christian Ehrhoff - 7 Paul Martin
3 Olli Maatta - 58 Kris Letang
47 Simon Despres - 4 Rob Scuderi

Goaltenders
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
1 Thomas Greiss


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