PENGUINS (13-3-2) at ISLANDERS (13-6-0)
TV: CITY; ROOT, MSG+
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Though his team comes home with a chance to sweep a back-to-back series against the first-place team in its division, Jack Capuano would prefer not to play the same style of game.
The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins play at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, 24 hours after New York went into Consol Energy Center and left with a 5-4 shootout victory. Capuano liked the result, but he doesn’t want to get into another run-and-gun matchup with the Penguins, who lead the NHL in scoring at 3.67 goals per game and are two points ahead of the Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
“You never know what you’re going to get going into a game, obviously,” Capuano said after the Islanders’ optional morning skate. “We don’t want to play that type of game, but as we showed the video to our guys this morning, our structure was good. They have some pretty good skills. We’re there, but we’re not there.
“We want to play a little bit more ‘in your face.’ In the first and third periods, we were really good, we did a lot of good things. In the second period, we mismanaged the puck … and when you make it a short track for them, a quick transition game, they’re going to get their opportunities.”
The Islanders won the tiebreaker after they were unable to hold leads of 3-1 and 4-2, enabling the Penguins to earn a point.
“We had the lead and gave that up,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, whose second period goal gave the Islanders a 4-2 lead. “They’re a great offensive team and they capitalized on their chances.”
The Islanders had a guest speaker at their morning meeting. Hall of Fame goaltender Billy Smith, who’s being honored Saturday, addressed the current team. Smith was in goal for all four of the Islanders’ Stanley Cups from 1980-83.
“Three or four minutes of conversation with him is really enlightening,” Capuano said. “I thought it was great. Not only did Billy get a chance to talk to our players, we had a three-minute video of when Billy played the game, and guys could get a sense, if they didn’t know, who he was. I’m glad our guys got a chance to interact with Billy and see that video.”
Each team will change goaltenders. Pittsburgh will use backup Thomas Greiss; the Islanders will go with starter Jaroslav Halak, who has won his past five starts.
Like Capuano, Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston wants his team to tighten up.
“Defensively, early in the game I didn’t think we were very good at all,” he said two hours before game time. “Usually, that has been a staple of how we play. The better we are defensively, the better we are offensively.
“It’s a matter of getting ready. The first 10 minutes are going to be very important in this building, especially with their crowd, their energy. We’ve got to be better in our own zone.”
The Islanders found an effective way to defuse the NHL’s best power play Friday: Don’t give it any chances. New York had the only man-advantage and the game was played at even strength for the final 58:01.
“If you look at the games we’ve played, there haven’t been very many power plays either way,” Johnston said. “It’s just the way the games are called. It was almost like a playoff game; [the officials] knew it was an important game for both teams and they decided to call it like a playoff game. They weren’t going to over-call it.”
Pittsburgh will have an additional forward available after recalling Jayson Megna from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Megna has nine goals in 17 AHL games this season; he has five goals and nine points in 36 NHL games.
“He’s been playing really well down there,” Johnston said. “He’s a guy we’d like to get in. We have quite a few games coming up this week, and we don’t have any forward depth right now. For protection, and also because he’s earned it, we brought him up.”
Penguins forward Craig Adams will play in his 900th NHL game. Adams, the 223rd player chosen in the 1996 NHL Draft, will be the 12th player from his draft class to play 900 games in the NHL.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Christian Ehrhoff
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Jayson Megna
Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot)
Nikolay Kulemin – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen - Mikhail Grabovski
Anders Lee - Ryan Strome – Brock Nelson
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Cory Conacher, Matt Donovan, Brian Strait
Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Michael Grabner (lower body)
Status report: Johnston said Megna would be a game-time decision. If he plays, Sill is the likeliest scratch. Despres replaces Bortuzzo, who played on the third pairing Friday. ... Grabner, who has yet to play this season after having hernia surgery in September, could return as early as next week. “He’s missed a lot of hockey,” Capuano said.
Who's hot: Malkin had two assists Friday and has a goal and five points in his past three games. ... Crosby has 25 goals and 85 points in 47 regular-season games against the Islanders. ... Strome's goal Friday was his fourth of the season, all in the past five games.