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Isles provide opposition as Pens go for 15 straight

by Brian Hunter

ISLANDERS (16-15-3) at PENGUINS (27-8-0)


Last 10: New York 6-4-0; Pittsburgh 10-0-0

Season series: Fifth and final meeting of the regular season between these Atlantic Division rivals. The Islanders won the opening matchup, but the Penguins have taken the next three. Sidney Crosby has nine points -- all assists -- to lead both teams in scoring.

Big story: With the Penguins on a 14-game winning streak that's just three shy of an NHL record, it would be easy to talk all about them and ignore their opponent completely. But the Islanders enter Saturday tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings and are a threat to grab the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs berth in six years. If they do, this could end up being a first-round matchup.

Team Scope:

Islanders: Coupled with the rival Rangers being shut out in Ottawa, the Islanders' 4-3 shootout victory in Philadelphia on Thursday tied the clubs with 35 points -- the Blueshirts hold down eighth as a result of having played one fewer game. Having already lost 7-0 to the Flyers this season and given up the first two goals of the rematch, the Isles showed pluck in coming back. John Tavares scored in the final minute of the second period, Colin McDonald tallied twice in the third, and after a late Scott Hartnell goal for the Flyers forced extra time, Josh Bailey connected in the fourth round of the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

"We need the two points in any way shape or form, so we'll take it and try to build from it," Tavares said. "We started slow, but every line contributed and we battled back. We finished checks, created opportunities down low and it feels good to get this one here."

Penguins: Is this the day Jarome Iginla makes his Pittsburgh debut? That seemed questionable in the 24 hours leading up, as Iginla was still dealing with immigration issues following his trade from Calgary, but the Penguins are loaded regardless of when the future Hall of Famer arrives in town. They got Evgeni Malkin back from injury Thursday and cruised past the Jets, 4-0, with veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun registering his 50th career shutout. Showing their tremendous depth, the Pens received a pair of goals from Pascal Dupuis, giving him 17 in just 35 games this season.

"We have great players -- and even the great players understand what we need to do to win," Vokoun said. "Sometimes that's even more important than having them."

Who's hot: Tavares has goals in three consecutive games for the Islanders, and his 21 for the season place him second only to Steven Stamkos. Evgeni Nabokov has stopped 69 of 74 shots (.932 save percentage) during a personal three-game winning streak. … Crosby has three goals and six assists during a six-game points streak for the Penguins. Vokoun has won six straight decisions and stopped 133 of 137 shots (.971 save percentage) over his past six outings.

Injury report: New York forward David Ullstrom (groin) is on injured reserve. … Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury left Tuesday's game against Montreal with a sore neck after a goalmouth collision and didn't dress Thursday. He's day-to-day, but did practice Friday. Defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) is on injured reserve.

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