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Isles try to end 10-game slide in Pittsburgh

by John Kreiser /
ISLANDERS (16-27-7) at PENGUINS (32-15-4)


Last 10 -- New York 3-6-1; Pittsburgh 6-3-1

Season series -- It's game four of six between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Penguins have won two of the three meetings this season, including a 1-0 victory at home last Tuesday.

Big story -- The Penguins are proving they can win without their big guns. With both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out with injuries, Pittsburgh lost its best remaining center, Jordan Staal, with a match penalty on Tuesday and still won -- rallying from a 2-0 deficit for a 4-3 shootout win against the Rangers in New York.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Isles are all but assured of missing the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, but they have to be wondering what could have been after Tuesday's 4-1 win at Atlanta. Forward Kyle Okposo scored his first two goals of the season for the Isles in his sixth game back after missing the first 44 with a shoulder injury that required surgery -- just one of a load of injuries that sabotaged New York's season.

"It adds a lot of emotion to our bench," said interim coach Jack Capuano, whose team also lost Mark Streit, by far its best defenseman, to a preseason shoulder injury that may keep him out all season. "We got lines that are going and, again, not only in his play but he's one of our alternate captains. He leads by example and it's been a great help, obviously, with the injuries we sustained, to have Kyle back in our lineup for leadership."

Penguins -- Successful teams have the depth to cope with injuries, and that's been the case so far with the Penguins, who are pushing the Flyers for the top spot in the East losing Crosby for a month and other key contributors for chunks of the season. Monday's hero was Dustin Jeffrey, who was called up from AHL Wilkes-Barre on Monday and had a goal and the shootout winner against the Rangers.

"I'd say that was a pretty good chance and a pretty good response with the way he played," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Who's hot -- Isles center John Tavares had a pair of assists on Tuesday, giving him 24 points in his last 22 games. Forward Michael Grabner, crowned the NHL's fastest skater during All-Star Weekend, is 3-3-6 in his last five games. … Malkin would want to play anyway, but especially so against the Isles -- he has 7 goals and 21 points in his last 15 home games against them.

Injury report -- For a change, the Islanders are playing at an opponent who has injury troubles. The Penguins will again be without Sidney Crosby (concussion), though they may get Evgeni Malkin (knee and sinus infection) back after he missed four games. Forward Arron Asham (upper body) left Tuesday's game, and Mark Letestu (lower body) was injured during the morning skate.

Stat pack -- The Isles have dropped their last 10 games in Pittsburgh, including both visits this season. The Penguins are 13-1-2 in their last 16 overall against their division rivals. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.29 goals-against average and two shutouts while winning seven in a row at home against the Islanders.

Puck drop -- The Penguins may get Malkin back, and they got a boost when Staal received no extra disciplinary action after the match penalty he received for flattening Rangers forward Brandon Prust.

That ejection and the injuries to Asham and Letestu meant the Pens finished Monday's game without their top four centers -- and still won.

"We've dealing with (adversity) and dealt with it again tonight," Bylsma said. "We were down 2-0 in a tough situation. Our guys battled back. … I'm real proud of the gutsy effort we had from our guys."

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