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Surging Islanders visit injury-plagued Penguins

by Brian Compton
ISLANDERS (22-19-8) at PENGUINS (30-19-1)

Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Pittsburgh 4-6-0.

Season Series:
This is the third of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals, but the first in Pittsburgh. The teams split a pair of games on Long Island, with the Isles winning the most recent battle, 3-2 on Nov. 27.

Big Story:
The Islanders are one of the hottest teams in the League right now and received a huge boost over the past week with the return of goaltender Rick DiPietro. The top selection from the 2000 NHL Entry Draft earned his first shutout in nearly two years on Monday afternoon in a 4-0 victory against New Jersey.

Team Scope:

Monday's win was New York's fourth straight, and each of those victories have come against quality opponents -- Phoenix, Detroit, Buffalo and New Jersey. Just like the Devils, the Isles also shut out the Red Wings last Tuesday in a 6-0 victory. The wins against the Coyotes and Sabres were decided by shootouts.

"It's been building up over time here," coach Scott Gordon said of his team's confidence. "Again, we have a night where we don't give up a lot of scoring chances and we don't give up a lot of shots."

Inconsistency has plagued Pittsburgh as of late, and now the injury bug is starting to hit, too. Marc-Andre Fleury, one of the top goalies in the League, is suffering from a fractured left ring finger and is unlikely to play on Tuesday night. Brent Johnson, Fleury's backup, is also suffering from a lower-body injury. It left the Pens with John Curry and Alexander Pechurski on Saturday night, and the end result was a 6-2 loss to Vancouver.

Curry allowed five goals on 14 shots before being replaced by the 19-year-old Pechurski, who was forced to wear Fleury's pads. He went 12-for-13 in his NHL debut.

"That's the definition of thrown into the fire," coach Dan Bylsma said. "From getting the call last night, to wearing Flower's pads, it's a lot to ask of a young kid. But he played fantastic, stood in there and was confident."
Who's Hot: Isles forward Matt Moulson scored twice on Monday and leads the team with 19 goals. Kyle Okposo has points in six consecutive games and Josh Bailey has five goals in nine games.

Injury Report:
Isles right wing Tim Jackman is out with a broken orbital bone. He hopes to return later this month, as does defenseman Brendan Witt (calf). Radek Martinek (torn ACL) is out for the season. … While Johnson is likely to dress on Tuesday, it's unlikely that Fleury will. The Pens are also without forward Chris Kunitz (abdominal) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (undisclosed).

Stat Pack:
Pens center Evgeni Malkin snapped an 11-game goal drought on Saturday with his 14th on the season. Malkin's last goal came on Dec. 23, a span of 680:29.

Puck Drop:
"It's up to you guys to continue to ask those questions (about my health). You guys have to do what you have to do. I'm taking as much Vitamin C as I can to stay healthy. I'm going to continue to work hard and take care of my body and listen to the advice of doctors and trainers. They've done a great job so far." -- DiPietro after Monday's 4-0 win against New Jersey.

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