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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Penguins

The Islanders take on a heated rival at Barclays Center (7 p.m., MSG+)

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders
New York Islanders (5-8-3) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-4-2)
7 p.m., Barclays Center - Buy Tickets
TV: MSG+
Radio: WNYM 970AM, 88.7 WRHU-FM, 103.9FM WRCN

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After three days of hard practices and community work, the New York Islanders are back in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders are looking to bust out of a 1-3-3 stretch and a game against a heated rival might be the jolt they need. 

"We just have to go out there and lay it all on the line," Ryan Strome said. "It's a big game for us to prove to ourselves that we can do it. Everyone in here believes it, so it's time to show it now, it's time to man up and get these wins." 

Ryan Strome To Play On Top Line: 

Ryan Strome has practiced on the Islanders' top line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey for the past two days and will play RW1 on Friday night. 

Strome is looking to end a nine-game point drought and Jack Capuano said playing alongside a skilled playmaker like Tavares could help ignite the 23-year-old. Strome has bounced between center and wing for a majority of the season and played over 500 minutes with Tavares last season. 

"I just have to take charge out there and not really worry about who I'm playing with," Strome said. "That'll open space for those guys. I've felt good over the past couple of days, the best I've felt all year so it's a good opportunity." 

Tavares said he and Strome both understand how the other think the game are positive possession drivers as a pair, with a 52.6% CF% since the start of last year. Tavares said for them to be successful they have to play fast, shoot when they get opportunities and follow up for second and third chances. 

"[We're] just trying to build by doing the right things and not trying to do too much - or create too much - on our own or look for the perfect play," Tavares said. "So it'll be important for us to focus on the simple things and let our instincts take over."

Penguins Looking To Bounce Back 

The reigning Stanley Cup champions are off to a 10-4-2 start this season, but enter Friday's game on the heels of a lopsided 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. That doesn't change anything for the Islanders, who are preparing for a tough game against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel et all. 

"If they were coming off a 7-0 win, I'm sure we'd be saying the same thing," Tavares said. "They are always a challenge and obviously are Stanley Cup champions… We'll have to play well and be at our best to give ourselves a chance at the W."

The Islanders-Penguins meeting in October was close until the final stretch, so the Islanders are drawing the positives and lessons of that game. 

"We played them really well, that was one of our better games of the year. We just have to play the same way. When we dictate the pace of the game, we're successful. When we sit back and let the game come to us when we play slow and we get in a bit of trouble."

 "A win would be huge," Travis Hamonic said. "Rival or not, it doesn't matter who we're playing right now, we need a win obviously. Those games are certainly exciting games for our fans and for us. As a team, I think we always play a strong game against Pittsburgh and it should be a good test for us.

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