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New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Team Record: 9-11-6

Last Game: 3-2 OTL vs. CHI
Season Series: 0-2-1 of 6
Team Record: 16-9-4
Last Game: 3-2 L @ PHI
Season Series: 3-0-0 of 6
Brian Rolston
The veteran leadership that forward Brian Rolston has brought to the Islanders has helped the team in several ways. Playing the majority of the season on a line with Josh Bailey, he's not only helped the center find his game, but in the abscence of Michael Grabner, Rolston moved up to the second line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, and provided depth when it was needed.

On Tuesday against Chicago at home, Rolston was back on a line with Bailey and rookie winger David Ullstrom. Rolston played a smart game and led the team with seven shots on goal, including more than a few snipers that went just a bit wide of the net during the Isles power play.

“Brian is definitely a guy that has a tremendous shot,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “He can get pucks to the net, there’s no question.”

With three goals and three assists this season, the forward would ultimately like to contribute more offensively, but for now he’ll continue to play smart and shoot the puck, creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
Simon Despres and the Pens blue-liners
With names like Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy and Zbynek Michalek listed on the Penguins injured reserve and Robert Bortuzzo sidelined with concussion-like symptoms, the Penguins injury-depleted defensive core could be in for more bad news as Deryk Engelland is questionable for tonight’s game at Nassau Coliseum.

If Engelland is unavailable, Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma said they have worthy prospects available for recall from Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins including Carl Sneep and Philip Samuelsson, both of whom have been given some big minutes for the Pens American Hockey League affiliate.

However, rookie Simon Despres is a solid two-way defenseman that has helped give the Penguins blue line a boost in the absence of all their veterans. Selected 30th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old rookie, has played in four games for the Penguins, posting one assist in his first NHL game. In the three games to follow, he’s been kept off the scoresheet, though he’s seen more ice time.
Last time the Islanders played the Penguins, the Islanders were in the midst of a four game winless streak, their confidence was down and the hype surrounding Sidney Crosby’s return to the game after more than a 10 month absence got the best of them. This time around, it’s different. The Islanders have posted points in each of their last six games (4-0-2 record), and they are feeling  confident.

“There is a different look with our team right now, different lineup,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We know the way they play and they have a real good team. Some highly skilled guys, we just really have to worry about how we have to play.”

He continued, “We are going to continue to focus on our process, continue to focus on things that we have to do to be successful and I think over the last couple weeks we’ve turned the corner on some things. We must maintain our focus and make sure that we do the right things at the right times.”

Holding practice at the Coliseum on Friday morning, Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma told the media that the team has played a strong first shift and then seemed to drop off after that. So if the Isles can score some goals early and catch the Penguins on their heels, they could be looking at some quick offensive success.

“They are still dangerous  up front,” Capuano said. “They may have a few injuries on the back end, but they have pretty good goaltending and their forward lines come at you. They forecheck hard. For us, it’s not going to change how we need to play. We have to eliminate turnovers and we can’t make it a short track against some of their skill forwards. We have to make sure we make it a 200 foot game against Pittsburgh.”
The New York Islanders had the misfortune of being front and center for Sidney Crosby's first game back, but the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar won't be on the ice for Saturday's rematch on Long Island.

The Penguins look for a fifth straight victory and 19th in 23 meetings against the Islanders in what they hope will be their last game without their star center for a while.

Crosby returned after a 68-game absence Nov. 21 when New York visited Consol Energy Center, and his season debut couldn't have gone much for Pittsburgh (16-9-4). The former Hart Trophy winner had two goals and two assists in the Penguins' 5-0 victory, giving him 31 points in his last 13 games against the Islanders. (Continue Reading)

The last time the Islanders and the Penguins faced off, it was Sidney Crosby's return to the ice after more than a 10 month absence (Nov. 21). He made his presence known quickly and often as the NHL superstar scored the Pens first and last goals in the 5-0 routing of the Islanders and notched an additional two assists on goals by Brooks Orpik and Evgeni Malkin before Steve Sullivan scored to take a 4-0 lead. Crosby's final goal of the contest was the only goal of the third period. Anders Nilsson made his first NHL start and made 31 saves.
Date of
Games Missed Prognosis
DiPietro 12/03 Groin strain 2 No timetable
Eaton 11/21 Knee 8 6 weeks
Katic 9/24 Shoulder 26 out indef.
MacDonald 11/29 Right leg 4 2-4 weeks
Nabokov 11/17 Groin 10 out indef.
Niederreiter 12/03 Concussion 2 No timetable
Pandolfo 11/26 Broken foot 5 4-6 weeks
Power Play %: 17.6%
Penalty Kill %: 81.3%
Home Record: 6-6-3
Road Record: 3-5-3
Goals For: 59
Goals Against: 82
Power Play %: 17.5%
Penalty Kill %: 88.4%
Home Record: 8-2-2
Road Record: 8-7-2
Goals For: 88
Goals Against: 72
(Answer from 12/08: 1985-86. The Isles owned the Hawks at home going undefeated for 11 seasons with a record of 16-0-6.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said the lineup would remain the same as last game. That means Al Montoya in goal, Kevin Poulin backing up with Micheal Haley as the healthy scratch.

Penguins (Expected) Lineups
Forwards: Sullivan-Malkin-Neal, Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy, Cooke-Vitale-Dupuis, MacIntyre-Adams-Asham

Orpik-Martin, Despres-Niskanen, Picard-Bortuzzo

Fleury, Johnson

Expected scratches:
Engelland, Crosby, Park

Islanders center Josh Bailey: "I think we just need to keep winning, keep pushing forward. Even Thursday's game, Chicago is one of the best teams in the league and we didn’t have a very good first period, we didn’t get too rattled. And you get that calmness and it feels good, it’s a good confidence to have, you know you’re going to finish strong and bounce back from a tough first and find a way to get out a win or a point somehow like we did. I think Saturday is going to be another test. Pittsburgh’s played some good games against us this year, I think it’ll be key to get a big win at home."

Cory Wright contributed to this report
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