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Morning Skate Updates - 1/23/14

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The Islanders close out their season series with the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight on national TV at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles and Pens have developed an intense rivalry over the past few seasons and always treat fans to hard-hitting, high-scoring and close hockey games. The Isles are 1-1-1 against the Pens this season, but all games were decided by one goal and in the last two minutes of play.

The Penguins are the toast of the Eastern Conference, with the most wins (35), points (72) and goals (162). The Islanders are coming off back-to-back wins against the Flyers and Rangers, and are one of the hottest team in the conference with 10 wins in their last 13 games.

Ahead of tonight’s game, the Islanders held a morning skate at Nassau Coliseum. Here are some news, notes and quotes from today’s skate.

Matt Martin and Brian Strait battle for the puck at the Islanders morning skate.

Lineup Notes/Changes:

Poulin in goal:
Kevin Poulin gets the nod in goal after a stellar 30-save effort against the Rangers on Tuesday. Poulin came up big in the back half of the game, stopping 26 of the last 27 Rangers shots and all 13 in the third period. Poulin is 6-2-0 since he assumed the starting role from an injured Evgeni Nabokov.

Kevin Poulin flashes the glove at the Islanders morning skate.

Comeback Kids: The Isles have rallied from a two-goal deficit to win an NHL-leading eight times this season, including six times on the road. The Islanders have won games in which they've trailed by two goals or more six times since December 29, and five of those six wins were recorded in regulation time.

NHL’s Top Line:  The trio of John Tavares, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo has been the NHL’s best since Dec. 17. Tavares leads the league with 25 points during that span, while Vanek (22) is second and Okposo (21) is tied for third.

Kyle Okposo passes to Thomas Vanek at the Islanders morning skate.

Streaking: Thomas Vanek is riding a six-game point streak (3g/5a), while Frans Nielsen is riding a five-game point streak (1g/5a).

Okposo: Kyle Okposo is one point shy of matching his career high (52) set in the 2009-10 season.

Kyle Okposo looks on at the Islanders morning skate.

Crosby vs. Tavares:
The league’s top two scorers, Sidney Crosby and John Tavares, go head-to-head tonight. Crosby has 69 points (26g/43a), while Tavares has 62 (23g/39a). The rival captains will be teammates for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Tavares on Crosby: There’s no question [he’s the best in the game]. You look at his resume and him on a consistent basis, the level he is at is so high. His game never seems to dip, he’s always improving and getting better. He’s so consistent. It’s not just producing, he makes everyone around him better.

January Record: The Islanders are 8-3-0 in January, marking the first time in over 10 years the Islanders won eight games in January. The most January wins in franchise history is 10, set in 1980.

Kevin Poulin makes a save at the Islanders morning skate.

NHL Revealed: The Islanders were featured on the first episode of NBC’s NHL Revealed: A season like no other. The birth of Kyle Okposo’s daughter and John Tavares’ five-point night against the Dallas Stars were the Isles highlights of the show.

From the Coach: Our young players are playing better and playing with more confidence right now. It starts at the back end between the pipes and I think our goalies have played better and are giving us a chance to win games.

Colin McDonald takes a shot at the Islanders morning skate.

Emperor Penguins: The Penguins have some of the best offensive talent in NHL, icing a lineup that includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz. Crosby leads the league in scoring with 69 points in 50 games, while Malkin and Kunitz each have 50. Neal has been limited to 29 games this season, but has 37 points.

Special Teams: The Penguins boast the league’s best power play and penalty kill. The PP is converting at 24.7% while the PK is killing at a rate of 88.2%.

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