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Penguins visit Islanders seeking 11th consecutive win

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (23-8-0) at ISLANDERS (13-14-3)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 10-0-0; New York 5-3-2

Season series: It's the fourth of five meetings this season. Pittsburgh has won the last two, including a 4-2 victory at the Nassau Coliseum in early February.

Big story: Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions: The Penguins come to Long Island with a 10-game winning streak, while the Islanders have dropped the first two games of a four-game homestand by being outscored 7-0 in the third period.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh is perfect in March, winning all 10 of its games to blow the Atlantic Division race wide open. The Penguins have shown they can outscore teams -- they outscored opponents 26-18 in the first five wins -- and shut them down; the last five opponents have managed just five goals.

The Penguins are the first team in NHL history to have 10-game win streaks in three consecutive seasons.

"The importance is probably greater just because of a shortened season, but I think the good thing for us is that we're playing so many games and I don't think anyone is thinking a whole lot about it, we're just going out there and playing the way that we need to," captain Sidney Crosby said.

Islanders: If NHL games were 40 minutes long, the Islanders would be Stanley Cup contenders. But they're not -- and the Islanders' third-period miseries have damaged their chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The Isles blew a 3-1 lead by allowing four third-period goals to Ottawa on Tuesday, then were outscored 3-0 by Montreal in the third period on Thursday in a 5-2 loss.

"We've got to have that killer instinct and understand that we can't lay off the gas pedal a little bit just because we've got the lead or we're playing well," said center John Tavares, who scored the Islanders' first goal. "The first 40 minutes of the last few games have been pretty good for us. We should be confident. We want to play with the lead. It takes a lot out of you to come back."

Who's hot: Crosby is running away with the scoring title and has five points in his past four games. Marc-Andre Fleury has won his last five starts, allowing only eight goals. … Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has goals in back-to-back games. Matt Moulson has a six-game assists streak and set up both goals on Thursday.

Injury report: Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin is hoping to return against the Islanders after two days of practice. Defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) didn't practice Thursday and appears less likely to play. … The Islanders are without ex-Penguins defenseman Brian Strait (ankle) and forward David Ullstrom (groin).

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