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At the Rink: Penguins at Islanders

by John Kreiser / NHL.com

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders are going from one big rivalry to another.

Three days after they ended a seven-game road trip by shutting out the New York Rangers, the Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum to host the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team they lead by one point for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

"They're going to come out hard," Islanders captain John Tavares said of the Penguins. "They're a proven team, a lot of skill. We can't give them anything easy. We have to be disciplined in terms of taking penalties and just in our own game."

The Islanders are home for one game, play at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, and then play 22 of their final 37 games at the Coliseum, where they are 14-4-0. The building will be rocking, something Tavares is counting on.

"We're back home and we want to feed off the energy of being at home," he said. "But we have to play smart, do the right things, keep doing what we're doing. We see what brings us success and try to play that way."

What's been bringing success to the Islanders (29-13-1) is dominating the puck. They are 10-3-1 in their past 14 games and have outshot and outattempted their opponents in each of those games.

"For us there's a certain way we have to play," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "When we do that we give ourselves a chance. We play less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. It's something that we've stressed from Day One and I think the guys understand how we need to play."

The Islanders' have had two days off since they shut out the Rangers. Forward Josh Bailey said having a break between games against two of the Islanders' biggest rivals was a good thing.

"Especially with the way our schedule has been since the [holiday] break. We haven't really had much time off," Bailey said. "We've been on the road a lot; we haven't really had much chance to spend with our families. It was nice to get that extra day; stay home, sleep in a little bit and enjoy your time. We knew we have some big games coming up starting tonight, and it's important to get your rest when you can."

The Penguins (26-10-6) also have been off since Tuesday, when they defeated the Minnesota Wild 7-2. Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 in its past six games but hasn't forgotten its previous visit to Long Island, a 4-1 New York victory Nov. 22 that completed a home-and-home sweep.

"The last time we played them in here we weren't happy with our game," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "They played a very good game; we didn't play a very good game. Any time that's in the back of your mind, you know the next time you play that team you're looking forward to that game, to sort of reassert yourself and say, 'We're going to come in here tonight and have a much better game than last time.' We're going to push them harder in certain areas and we're going to be a better team than we were last time."

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby has 25 goals and 85 points in 48 regular-season games against the Islanders but was held off the scoresheet in New York's sweep in November.

"I don't think we were too happy with our game here last time," Crosby said. "We have to be better. They're playing really good hockey so we have to be at our best.

"They played good team defense [in the November games]. I think their biggest strength is the ability to hang onto the puck and play offensively. Hopefully we can get the puck a little bit more."

The game will match two goaltenders, Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and New York's Jaroslav Halak, who are headed to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game after being added as injury replacements Thursday.

The Islanders will be led onto the ice by Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier, one of the cornerstones of their dynasty in the early 1980s. Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1980, the first of the Islanders' four consecutive Stanley Cup winners. He's being honored as part of the Islanders' final season at Nassau Coliseum.

"Any time I get a chance to come back and hear the cheers of Long Island, whether they're for the days of the past or the current team, it's wonderful to see this place rocking," said Trottier, now an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres. "I'll really enjoy the evening."

Trottier also was a member of the Penguins' Stanley Cup teams in 1991 and 1992.

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Beau Bennett

Marcel Goc - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Mark Arcobello - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Christian Ehrhoff - Scott Harrington

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Andrew Ebbett, Robert Bortuzzo

Injured: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Blake Comeau (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery)

ISLANDERS

Josh Bailey - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Nikolay Kulemin

Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Ryan Strome

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Eric Boulton, Matt Donovan

Injured: Mikhail Grabovski (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body)

Status report: Pittsburgh placed Ebbett on waivers Thursday. If he clears he can be assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. … Maatta had shoulder surgery this week and is out for the rest of the season. … Pittsburgh recalled Harrington from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and sent down Scott Wilson after activating him from injured reserve. … Neither Grabovski nor Visnovsky skated at practice Thursday.

Who's hot: Malkin has two points in each of his past three games and in four of his previous five. His 23 goals and 59 points against the Islanders are the most he's had against any team. … Crosby had three assists against Minnesota, giving him nine points in the Penguins' past five games. … Lee has the winning goal in each of New York's past two games and leads the Islanders with five game-winners.

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