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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Penguins

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
In seasons past, three games against the Eastern Conference’s elite would have kept Matt Martin wired all day, draining him before the puck even dropped.


But this year, he and the Islanders are older, wiser and much more even keeled. The Islanders follow up Tuesday’s marquee matchup against the New York Rangers with games against two more of the Eastern Conference’s top teams – Pittsburgh at home Friday, Montreal on the road Saturday – but aren’t getting caught up in all the hype.

“It’s about tempering your emotions and not getting too high or low throughout the season – not letting the hype of everything emotionally drain you,” Martin said. “It’s really just about approaching every game the exact same way with one goal in mind: two points.”

The Islanders enter the tough back-to-back set on the heels of a 5-2-0 road trip and riding three straight wins. With the Penguins and Islanders jockeying for position at the top of the Metropolitan Division, Friday’s game is generating the same type of buzz as Tuesday’s matchup in Manhattan.

“The media and the fans can get hyped up for these games, but for us, we just have to focus on it one game at a time,” Martin said. “Obviously it’s a big matchup and one we want to win. We played well against Columbus, well against the Rangers and now it’s about carrying it over to Pittsburgh.”

The Islanders aren’t intimidated by playing three top teams either, not with their stellar play this season and standing at the top of the Eastern Conference. Head Coach Jack Capuano paints his team as underdogs to the media, but inside the room, the Islanders are a confident bunch. They are 20-5-1 against the Eastern Conference and know they can beat any team in their time zone.

“I think we’re confident in our team and expect to win any game we play,” John Tavares said. “That’s not trying to be cocky or have a swagger in any way, it’s just believing in yourself and I think that’s why you play this game.”

The Islanders are 2-1-0 against the Penguins this season, winning a back-to-back, home-and-home set in late November after dropping the first meeting in Pittsburgh in October. The teams wrap up their season series April 10 in Pennsylvania.

“We know we have to respect Pittsburgh because they are a good team… but in here we feel that we’re a pretty good team too,” Frans Nielsen said.

Friday’s contest likely pits two all-star goalies against one another, as both Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury were named to the all-star game on Thursday afternoon. Halak and Fleury will join Islanders captain John Tavares, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Columbus for all-star weekend.

Friday’s game is also Bryan Trottier Mini-Locker Night, as the Islanders will honor the Hall of Famer prior to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Saturday’s tilt against the Canadiens begins at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
29-13-1 (59 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
14-4-0 home
Pittsburgh Penguins
26-10-6 (58 points - 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
10-4-4 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

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:
- Halak Named to All-Star Game (Jan. 15)
- Isles TV: Halak Reacts to All-Star Nod (Jan. 15)
- 2015 Lighthouse Tournament: Day 1/2 (Jan. 15)


What's Happening at the Coliseum:

- Doors 5:45pm
- Lower Lobby 5:00pm
- Bryan Trottier Mini-Locker Night

Islanders player to watch
Frans Nielsen - Forward

Frans Nielsen scored his ninth goal of the season Tuesday night against the New York Rangers, taking a shorthanded rush end-to-end for the tally. Nielsen has 22 points this season (nine goals, 13 assists), but is one of the team’s most versatile players, playing on both the power play and penalty kill. Currently, Nielsen is centering a line with Anders Lee and Ryan Strome.
Penguins player to watch
Marc-Andre Fleury - Goalie

Marc-Andre Fleury is in the midst of a career season for the Penguins. Fleury is 22-7-4 with a 2.16 goals against average and a .926 save percentage and a league-leading six shutouts. Fleury’s regular season goals against and save percentage are the best of his 11-year career. On Thursday, the Penguins netminder was named – along with Jaroslav Halak – to the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
12 Josh Bailey 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee51 Frans Nielsen18 Ryan Strome
40 Michael Grabner
29 Brock Nelson
86 Nikolay Kulemin
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 – 37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Pittsburgh Penguins previous game lines
Forwards
14 Chris Kunitz 87 Sidney Crosby 39 David Perron
13 Nick Spaling
71 Evgeni Malkin 19 Beau Bennett
36 Bryan Rust
16 Brandon Sutter 23 Steve Downie
38 Zach Sill
57 Marcel Goc 27 Craig Adams

Defensemen:
10 Christian Ehrhoff
58 Kris Letang
7 Paul Martin
41 Robert Bortuzzo
4 Rob Scuderi
47 Simon Despres

Goaltenders:
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
1 Thomas Greiss


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