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5 Keys: Penguins at Islanders, Game 1

New York must slow down Crosby; Pittsburgh aims to contain Barzal

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PENGUINS at ISLANDERS

7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG+, ATTSN-PT

The New York Islanders have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1988 when they open the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. 

New York (48-27-7), which was expected to miss the playoffs for a third straight season following the free-agent departure of franchise center John Tavares, defied the odds and finished second in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of Pittsburgh (44-26-12).

Each team went 2-1-1 against the other during the regular season and it's the first time they'll play in the postseason since a six-game win by the Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Islanders series coverage]

 

1. Feed off the crowd

It's the first playoff game for the Islanders at the Coliseum since Game 6 of the 2015 first round against the Washington Capitals, so the energy should be palpable even well before opening face-off. How New York manages the adrenaline early in the game will be critical. 

"I'm looking forward to the atmosphere," coach Barry Trotz said. "It's the right feel, it's the right place and the right time. It's going to be a good atmosphere."

Video: Islanders, Penguins clash in rematch of 2013 series

 

2. Penguins' experience

This is the 13th consecutive playoff appearance for the Penguins, who have won the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017 during this stretch. Centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and defenseman Kris Letang each has played more than 125 NHL postseason games, whereas Islanders center Mathew Barzal makes his playoff debut Wednesday and left wing Anders Lee has five games on his resume.

"Experience helps, there's no question," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think our group has a significant amount of experience to draw on, but we also understand it's not the only thing. We've been a forward-thinking group where we're not trying to dwell on the past; we're trying to earn our way in the present. 

"This is a new challenge. We've got a new team with a new group of players, and we're trying to take each day as it comes and do everything we can to have success on that given day." 

 

3. Slow Sid down

Crosby has 113 points (36 goals, 77 assists) in 66 regular-season games against the Islanders since he entered the NHL in 2005, so there's little doubt the Penguins captain is going to get his scoring chances.  

So how does New York at least limit them?

"We've just got to play smart, be physical and keep the puck in their end," Islanders center Casey Cizikas said. "He doesn't want to play there. They obviously want to play in the offensive zone, so if we're smart with the puck, if we put the puck in the right spots and make it hard on him, then we're doing our job and keeping him out of our end."

 

4. Don't let Barzal be Barzal

Barzal led the Islanders with 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) but has scored one goal in his past 24 games. His speed and vision make it possible for the cold stretch to end on any shift. It will be up to the Penguins defense to make sure Barzal doesn't bust out.

"You try to take away time and space," Pittsburgh defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Good players like him, you try to deprive him of the puck. It's a lot easier to try and keep them from getting the puck than taking it away from them."

Video: NYI@WPG: Barzal finds twine to end lengthy drought

 

5. Stay out of the box

The Penguins finished the regular season with the fifth-best power play in the NHL (24.6 percent), and special teams always seem to have a big role in the playoffs. Though the Islanders want to play a physical style, they know they also need to be disciplined.

"It's huge," Cizikas said. "I know our [penalty] kill's going to be put to the test here, and we're looking forward to it. We've done a lot of video, we've talked a lot about it. Just got to stay out of the box. But when the task's called upon, we're going to have to answer."

 

Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Bryan Rust

Jared McCann -- Evgeni Malkin -- Patric Hornqvist

Dominik Simon -- Nick Bjugstad -- Phil Kessel

Zach Aston-Reese -- Matt Cullen -- Garrett Wilson

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Jack Johnson -- Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta -- Erik Gudbranson

Matt Murray

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Marcus Pettersson, Zach Trotman, Teddy Blueger

Injured: Chad Ruhwedel (upper body)

 

Islanders projected lineup

Anders Lee -- Mathew Barzal -- Jordan Eberle

Josh Bailey -- Brock Nelson -- Tom Kuhnhackl

Anthony Beauvillier -- Valtteri Filppula -- Leo Komarov

Matt Martin -- Casey Cizikas -- Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy -- Johnny Boychuk

Adam Pelech -- Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews -- Scott Mayfield

Robin Lehner

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Thomas Hickey, Luca Sbisa, Dennis Seidenberg, Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston

Injured: None

 

Status report

Dumoulin, who has been out since March 31 because of a lower-body injury, did not participate in the Penguins optional morning skate and is a game-time decision, per Sullivan. … Aston-Reese (lower body), who hasn't played since March 10, skated and left the ice early but also is a game-time decision. Ruhwedel also skated. … Greiss was the only goalie on the ice at the Islanders optional skate, a sign Lehner will start.

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