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Penguins look for rebound against Islanders

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (24-27-8) at PENGUINS (35-22-2)

Last 10 - New York 2-8-0; Pittsburgh 5-4-1

Season series - The teams are meeting for the fourth time this season and the second time at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh won 4-3 on Oct. 3 in a shootout to spoil the Isles' home opener and 6-4 on Jan. 19 at home. The Islanders rallied for a 3-2 home win on Nov. 27.

Big story - The Penguins have had a couple of days off, so they should be able to avoid any kind of hangover following Sunday's epic 5-4 overtime loss at Washington - a game they led 4-1 only to see Alex Ovechkin get a hat trick and assist on the OT winner. Despite a recent slump, they're still just two points out of first place in the Atlantic Division. The Islanders, who barely beat a snowstorm off Long Island, might not have needed a plane to fly to Pittsburgh after tying Tuesday's game against Nashville with 11 seconds left and winning 4-3 in a shootout - snapping a seven-game losing streak.

Team Scope:

Islanders - It's amazing how a win can turn a team around - and after stealing two points from the Predators, the Isles are suddenly dreaming about the playoffs again even though they're 13th in the East and five points out of eighth.

"The way things have been going lately, you realize that this was big," said third-string goalie Martin Biron, who beat the Predators for his first win since Nov. 13 - and played for the first time since Dec. 27. "This was something that can maybe switch momentum on our side."

If the Isles start winning again, they'll likely cite Mark Streit's tying goal as the turning point. Streit scored on a 6-on-4 power play with Biron on the bench to send the game into OT.

"It feels like you just scored the overtime game-winner in the playoffs. Everyone is jumping," Biron said.

Penguins - For a team with stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins are strangely powerless on the power play - and it's come back to bite them at times. One of these occasions was Sunday's game at Washington, when they went 1-for-6 and couldn't capitalize on a minute of 5-on-3 play or a late penalty that gave them the chance to win in regulation.

"We've got to find a way to help our team out there," said captain Sidney Crosby, who had the lone extra-man
goal in the first period. Despite that goal, the Penguins enter this game 26th on the power play at just 16.1 percent. A visit from the Islanders could help - New York is 28th on the penalty kill and surrendered four PPGs on seven tries in their last visit to Mellon Arena.

Who's hot - Isles rookie Matt Martin had a pair of assists in his NHL debut on Tuesday. … Crosby had a hat trick on Monday and a two-goal game on Sunday, giving him 39 for the season and matching his career high. He also had six points in the Isles' last visit to Pittsburgh. Center Jordan Staal had the Pens' other two goals on Sunday and is 3-1-4 in his last three games.

Injury report - Isles forward Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone) is almost ready to return. Defenseman Jack Hillen (broken jaw) and forward Josh Bailey (upper body) won't be back until after the Olympic break. … Pittsburgh is without enforcer (and ex-Islander Eric Godard for another 3-5 weeks with a groin injury. Center Max Talbot is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Stat pack - The Islanders' two power-play goals on Tuesday were their first in six games. Streit's goal was also the first they've scored after pulling the goaltender. … New York has as many wins in overtime and shootouts (12) as in regulation. … In addition to having matched his career high with 39 goals, Crosby has won more faceoffs (728) than anyone else in the NHL. His winning percentage (56.9) is 10th in the NHL.

Puck drop - After back-to-back losses at Montreal and Washington over the weekend, the Penguins couldn't have asked for a better scenario - a struggling team playing its second game in two nights after a late-night flight. This is the kind of game the Pens definitely need to put in the win column.

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