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Game Preview: Islanders at Penguins

by Jacob Betzner / New York Islanders
After speaking at Long Island elementary schools on Wednesday, the New York Islanders started studying for a big test, preparing for a pair of back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, starting tonight at 7 p.m. in Pittsburgh.


The Islanders currently rank second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Penguins. The Penguins are up 1-0 in the season series after beating the Islanders 3-1 on Oct. 18.

The Penguins have become one of the Isles’ most fierce rivals over the past four seasons and Josh Bailey said the Islanders always look at games against Pittsburgh as physical and mental test.

"They're intense games,” he said. “We know their team very well as well they know our team very well. We want to let that bring the best out in us.”

Though still early in the 2014–15 season, Bailey said the home-and-home against the Penguins carries more meaning than simply four points in the standings.

“They're the top team in the division right now, and if we have a productive weekend, we could change that,” he said. “It's big for us. It's a good test for us, and we want to have a better effort than we did last time in Pittsburgh."

The Islanders experimented with different line combinations in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Notably, Head Coach Jack Capuano reunited Kyle Okposo with Frans Nielsen to try and spark some offense. The plan worked, but according to Nielsen every player feels comfortable playing with each other.

“We didn’t have a good first period, and [Jack Capuano] just tried to mix it up. Sometimes you are rewarded for it,” he said. “They put Kyle [Okposo] on my line, and I’ve played with him a lot, so I know him. It was good to see that Cappy made a change and we were rewarded for it. It was good coaching, and it looks like he’s sticking with it.”

The Penguins shutdown the Islanders on seven power-play chances in the game in Pittsburgh last month, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the current league leader in shutouts with four, turned away 37 of 38 shots.

The Penguins recently lost forward Pascal Dupuis for at least six months with a blood clot in the lung, but welcomed back forward Beau Bennett, who missed the start of the season with a lower-body injury. Reigning NHL MVP Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins and the NHL with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists).

With first place in the Metropolitan Division at stake, the mini series against the Penguins starts on Friday at 7 p.m. in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders
12-6-0 (24 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
7-4-0 road
Pittsburgh Penguins
13-3-1 (27 points - 1st in Metropolitan Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
6-2-0 home
7:00  p.m.
CONSOL Energy Center
Pittsburgh, PA

Television:
MSG
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
Islanders News:
- Getting Schooled: Isles School Day (Nov. 19)
- Isles TV: Islanders School Day (Nov. 20)
- Isles Wives and Girlfriends Give Back (Nov. 20)
- Isles TV: Islanders Meet Brooklyn Nets (Nov. 20)
Islanders player to watch
Nick Leddy - Forward

Nick Leddy leads the Islanders with a plus-seven rating. The Islanders need Leddy and the entire defense to step up and shutdown the Penguins powerful attack, which boasts the second most goals in the NHL. Leddy ranks second on the Islanders in points among defensemen with eight (four goals, four assists).
Penguins player to watch
Beau Bennett - Forward

Beau Bennett returned to the Penguins from injury four games ago. The Gardena, CA native scored a goal and added two assists to help the Penguins defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 on Tuesday. With the recent loss of Pascal Dupuis, expect Bennett to see more ice time, especially on the power play.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
86 Nikolay Kulemin 91 John Tavares 29 Brock Nelson
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee
18 Ryan Strome
12 Josh Bailey
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
44 Calvin de Haan
3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey – 11 Lubomir Visnovsky

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

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

Goaltenders
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
1 Thomas Greiss


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