New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan has been waiting for his chance to play in the NHL. The Islanders' second first-round pick (No. 12) in 2009 played in one game in 2011-12 but now appears ready for significant minutes in the League.
De Haan was called up last week with the Islanders thin on the blue line and made his season debut against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. He blocked two shots and had four hits and an even rating in 20:07.
It won't get any easier Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum, when de Haan and the Islanders' defense will be charged with containing Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the highest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference with 86 goals.
"It's pretty cool," de Haan said Tuesday morning on playing against Alex Ovechkin and Crosby in consecutive games. "Those guys are the top players in the League, arguably. You can't treat them just like any other players. You have to battle them hard, move pucks and do the simple things."
In addition to Crosby, there's Evgeni Malkin, who ended November with eight points in his past three games and 17 in an eight-game point streak that earned him the NHL's "Second Star" for November. Chris Kunitz has 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 28 games with six points in his past four. James Neal has 13 points in his past seven.
Although the Penguins are on a three-game winning streak and seeking their eighth win in their past 10 games on Long Island, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they won't be taking the Islanders lightly.
"They have good offensive players," forward Pascal Dupuis said. "If we get caught trying to play in front of their D, instead of behind them and putting pucks there and holding the puck in the offensive zone, they're a team that can make you pay."
The Islanders contend with the Penguins coming off a 4-10-1 November and riding a six-game winless streak during which they've been outscored 25-11. The game will be the first between Pittsburgh and New York at Nassau Coliseum since Brooks Orpik's overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals eliminated the Islanders from the playoffs.
"Every game, no matter who we play, is important," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "Tough month for us; it's a new month. We want to turn the page and find a way to get points, wins and victories. Important game for us. It's always a lot of fun against Pittsburgh."
Anders Nilsson will get his second straight start in goal for the Islanders after allowing three goals against the Capitals in his season debut.
"He gave us a chance," coach Jack Capuano said. "Any time you have a guy in there that battles and gives you a chance to win the game, that's what you want as a staff. I thought he did that … Anders played well."
After getting a night off in the win Saturday against the Florida Panthers, Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net for the Penguins.
Here are the projected lineups:
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Josh Bailey
Pierre-Marc Bouchard – Peter Regin – Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Colin McDonald
Andrew MacDonald – Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey – Calvin de Haan
Aaron Ness – Matt Carkner
Scratched: Brock Nelson, Radek Martinek, Eric Boulton
Injured: Brian Strait (upper body), Evgeni Nabokov (strained groin), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)
Notes: Nabokov and Strait skated Tuesday for the second day in a row.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Andrew Ebbett – Brandon Sutter – Chris Conner
Zach Sill - Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Deryk Engelland – Brooks Orpik
Olli Maatta – Kris Letang
Simon Despres – Matt Niskanen
Scratched: Jayson Megna, Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Tanner Glass (broken hand), Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Rob Scuderi (broken ankle), Tomas Vokoun (blood clot)
Notes: Kobasew skated for a second straight day.