Skip to main content

Banged-up Penguins visit battered Islanders

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (35-17-4) at ISLANDERS (18-29-7)

TV -- RIS; FS-Pittsburgh (HD); MSG PLUS (HD)

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 7-3-0; New York 4-6-0

Season series -- It's the fifth of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals, with the home team winning the first four, including Pittsburgh's 3-0 win at home last Wednesday. The Islanders beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 29, ending Sidney Crosby's 25-game scoring streak in the process.

Big story -- Both teams overcame growing injury lists and toughed out post-regulation wins on Thursday. The Penguins, whose injured list included Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, nipped Los Angeles 2-1 at home on Jordan Staal's overtime goal. The Islanders got two goals from rookie Michael Grabner and the shootout winner from Kyle Okposo in a 4-3 win at Montreal that gave rookie goalie Mikko Koskinen -- the fifth goaltender to play for the Isles this season -- his first NHL win.

Team Scope:

Penguins -- Injuries left the Pens with just two players -- Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis -- who had reached double figures in goals before Thursday's game. But Pittsburgh got a lot of mileage from the four players it called up from AHL Wilkes-Barre. One of them, Brent Sterling, scored Pittsburgh's first goal

"I came off the bench late on the change and I was just sneaking down the slot," Sterling said after scoring his third NHL goal and first as a Penguin. "When you get that much time in the slot, you're hoping you can bury it."

Islanders -- What a difference a chance to prepare can make. Koskinen was thrown into his NHL debut on Tuesday when fellow rookie Kevin Poulin suffered a season-ending knee injury in warmups. He allowed goals on the first two NHL shots he faced in a 5-3 loss to Toronto. But with a couple of days to prepare for his second appearance, the 22-year-old made 37 saves through 65 minutes and stopped all four Montreal shootout attempts before Okposo's winner.

"It was real tough on him at home with Kevin going down," Islanders interim coach Jack Capuano said. "He had a day and half or two to think about his start tonight, and he just played it simple. He regrouped, he played square to the puck and he didn't try to do too much. He made some key saves for us."

Who's hot -- Marc-Andre Fleury is 8-2-0 in his last 10 decisions and made 33 saves in the win against Los Angeles. … Isles rookie Michael Grabner seems to get a breakaway or two every game due to his speed, and he's started to find the net. Grabner, crowned the NHL's fastest skater during All-Star Weekend, scored twice on Thursday. He has 10 goals in 12 games and 19 for the season.

Injury report -- Crosby (concussion) said he hopes to be back this season. Malkin had knee surgery on Thursday. Mark Letestu will miss at least another month with a knee injury, and Chris Kunitz (lower body) is also out. Dustin Jeffrey left Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. Matt Cooke is serving Game 2 of a four-game suspension … The Isles are without goalies Rick DiPietro (facial fractures and swollen knee), Nathan Lawson (knee) and Poulin (broken left kneecap), as well as a half-dozen regulars who are out indefinitely or won't be back at all this season.

Stat pack -- Pittsburgh's win on Thursday made Dan Bylsma the third coach in franchise history to reach 100 wins. He joins Eddie Johnston and Michel Therrien, his predecessor. … Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 since its last regulation loss to the Isles on Nov. 27, 2009.

Puck drop -- Both teams are tired and beat up -- but this game shouldn't lack for emotion. The Islanders felt Pittsburgh took liberties during last week's 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh, a game that ended with DiPietro being leveled by fellow goalie Brent Johnson in a fight, leaving DP's face a mess. Pittsburgh dominated the Isles physically that night; don't expect New York to sit still and be pushed around again.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.