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Penguins say farewell to Igloo

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (34-35-10) at PENGUINS (45-27-7)

Last 10 -- New York 6-3-1; Pittsburgh 4-4-2

Season series -- This is the fifth of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals, who conclude the season Sunday evening at the Nassau Coliseum. Pittsburgh has won three of the first four games, including both at Mellon Arena.

Big story -- The Penguins bid a fond (regular-season) farewell to the Igloo (formerly the CivicCenter, now Mellon Arena, but always the Igloo in Pittsburgh), the only home they've known since entering the NHL in 1967. However, they've not exactly going out with a bang -- they've split their last four games at home and are coming off a 6-3 whipping by the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, dropping the Pens two points behind New Jersey in the race for first place in the Atlantic Division. Winning the finale may not be easy against the Isles, a team that's coming off a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal on Tuesday and is playing some of its best hockey of the season.

Team Scope

Islanders -- New York has won five of its last six, including victories over Montreal, Ottawa and Philadelphia in its last three games.

"Even though we're out, everybody is loose," said Sean Bergenheim, who had a goal and a pair of assists against the Canadiens. "We're playing with more of a positive atmosphere with winning games. When we're down and we still get the win, I think it shows that this team has grown."

Penguins -- The defending Stanley Cup champions have work to do to be ready for the playoffs, which start next week. One area in which the Penguins have to improve is the start of games -- they've allowed the first goal in eight consecutive games.

"We kept having to restart and try to get back to our game, and that was tough," coach Dan Bylsma said after the loss to Washington, in which the Penguins gave up the first two goals and never recovered.

Who's hot -- Bergenheim has 4 goals and 8 points in his last five games. Goaltender Martin Biron is 7-0-2 in his last nine starts and has won the Isles' last three games. … Sidney Crosby had his career-high 48th goal on Tuesday and is tied for the NHL lead with Washington's Alex Ovechkin.

Injury report -- The Islanders have been riddled by injuries all season and took another hit on Tuesday when Blake Comeau, who scored his fifth goal in four games in the first period against Montreal, left with a broken foot after blocking a shot. He'll miss the last three games of the season. … Pittsburgh was without Evgeni Malkin again on Tuesday due to illness. He had returned Saturday after missing seven of eight games with a foot injury. The Isles wouldn't be upset if he has to sit again -- Malkin has 5 goals against them this season and is 11-8-19 against New York in the teams' last 11 meetings. Forward Chris Kunitz is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Stat pack -- The Penguins take a regular-season record of 859-578-205-28 into their final game at Mellon Arena. That includes a 53-36-14-2 mark against the Islanders -- including 7-0-0 in the last seven games and 13-2-0 in the last 15. However, two of the most famous wins in Isles' history came in this building -- a 1-0 victory in the 1975 quarterfinals that capped New York's rally from a 3-0 series deficit, and a 4-3 overtime win in Game 7 of the 1993 Patrick Division finals that ended Pittsburgh's quest for a third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Puck drop -- The Penguins really need to win this game to give themselves a chance to win the division and avoid the possibility of meeting Ovechkin and the Caps in the second round. But don't expect the Islanders to roll over -- they're playing well and have rolled over down the stretch.

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