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Penguins try to close out pesky Islanders

by John Kreiser


(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 3-2)


Big story: It's win or go home for the New York Islanders, who need to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on back-to-back nights to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 1993. The Penguins, who've won three of four visits to the Nassau Coliseum this season, will try to close out their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and beat the Islanders in a playoff series for the first time in their history.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh opted not to practice Friday, but captain Sidney Crosby picked up another honor anyway when he was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the MVP of the regular season. Crosby was running away with the scoring title until a deflected shot broke his jaw March 30 and kept him out until Game 2 of this series.

All he's done in the next four games is score three goals and add five assists to bring the Penguins within one victory of a second-round series against the Ottawa Senators. But to do so, they'll have to beat an Islanders team that's sure to be revved up by a raucous home crowd.

"This is always the toughest one, the fourth one," Crosby told Penguins TV on Friday. "They've played good hockey here. It's going to take our best to finish off the series. Last night's game was a good step for us -- we fee like that's how we need to play to finish it off."

Islanders: New York has its own Hart Trophy finalist, fourth-year center John Tavares, who carried the team for much of the regular season. He was tops on the Islanders with 47 points in 48 games and third in the NHL with 28 goals. The Islanders were 15-6-2 when he scored a goal and 20-7-2 when he had at least one point.

"I always look at what that player does for your team," coach Jack Capuano said Friday. "Let's face it. If John Tavares didn't have the season that he had, we're probably not in the situation that we're in. He did a lot for our team and he's going to get some consideration. There's no doubt that he should be in that category."

Tavares said the Islanders' first trip to the playoffs since 2007 and their better-than-expected performance against the top-seeded Penguins is a group effort.

"Obviously we're in this battle right now, but it's not just one man, one line, or five or six guys pulling their weight," he told the media Friday. "We had contributions from everybody down the stretch to get ourselves in the playoffs and now be in this position. Everybody has contributed in a big way."

Who's hot: Crosby has at least one point in each of the four games he's played. Evgeni Malkin (2-7-9), Jarome Iginla (1-7-8) and Pascal Dupuis (4-2-6) have points in all five games. Chris Kunitz has two goals and five points in the past three games. … Islanders center Casey Cizikas leads all rookies with four playoff points.

Injury report: The Penguins report no injuries. … The Islanders have lost one of their top defensemen, Andrew MacDonald, for the rest of the playoffs with a broken hand suffered in Game 4. Center Frans Nielsen left Game 5 with a lower-body injury and is expected to be a game-time decision.

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