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Struggling through a grueling portion of their schedule, the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to take advantage of a home game against a slumping opponent.

Weary Pittsburgh, playing the second of back-to-back games, will try to avoid a fourth straight loss when it meets the New York Islanders on Thursday.

This will be the sixth game in nine days for the Penguins, who are 1-3-1 during this stretch including regulation losses in the last three contests. Pittsburgh hasn't dropped four in a row since Nov. 7-12, 2007. After Friday's road matchup with Philadelphia, the Penguins will have played seven games - five of them on the road - in 11 days.

"What bothers me about this is that we don't practice," coach Michael Therrien told Pittsburgh's official Web site. "We don't have any practice, we just play. We wanted to practice, but we wanted to keep their energy."

Therrien made his comments before the Penguins (15-9-4) lost 4-1 at New Jersey on Wednesday night. Matt Cooke scored with 3:58 remaining to avoid the shutout, but the game was already well in hand for the Devils. Evgeni Malkin had an assist to give him 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in the last eight games.

"We played a pretty decent hockey game but we got a few bad breaks on both sides of the puck," said Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who failed to tally a point for the first time in eight games. ... "They got a few bounces on their goals and we hit a few posts. The effort was right, in the way we worked and the way we played, but we just didn't get any results."

Crosby, who leads the team in goals with 13, hasn't scored in five games since recording a hat trick against the Devils on Nov. 29.

The Islanders (10-16-2), meanwhile, have had an even worse time lately, losing four straight and six of seven, including a 4-3 defeat to the Flyers on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Andy Hilbert and Doug Weight gave the Islanders an early two-goal lead, but it evaporated as the Flyers scored three unanswered goals.

New York has given up 4.6 goals per game during the last seven contests. Joey MacDonald had made 17 consecutive starts in net, but got the night off Tuesday in favor of Yann Danis, who fell to 0-2-0 on the season with the loss.

MacDonald is expected to start this contest as the Islanders continue their four-game road trip, which ends Saturday in Columbus. McDonald and the Islanders have lost to the Penguins twice this season - both times at Nassau Coliseum - including a 5-3 defeat Nov. 26, when Malkin had a hat trick and added an assist.

Weight, who has two goals and an assist this season against Pittsburgh, needs five points for 1,000 in his career. He has a goal and three assists during his current four-game point streak.

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