| Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders |
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|Frans Nielsen |
| ||C - #51 |
|• The Herning, Denmark native, a team alternate captain, became the first Danish-born and raised citizen to appear in an NHL game when he made his Islanders debut on Jan. 6 against Carolina. |
• Named the second-most underrated player in the league, garnering five percent of the vote in a poll of 318 NHL players conducted by Hockey Night in Canada, CBCSports.ca and the NHLPA.
• Last season, Nielsen posted personal bests in games played (76), goals (12), assists (26), points (38) and average time on ice (17:12) in his second full NHL season.
|Kyle Okposo |
| ||RW - #21 |
|• Friday marks his 11th game back after missing the first 44 contests of the 2010-11 campaign with a torn right shoulder labrum. |
• The 22-year-old – drafted in the first round (seventh overall) by the Islanders in 2006 – was named an alternate captain in 2009-10, just his second full NHL season.
• Okposo, who had six points (2G-4A) in six games against Pittsburgh last season, played with Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski for one season at the University of Minnesota in 2006-07.
|Travis Hamonic |
| ||D - #36 |
|• Is in his rookie season with the Islanders and is averaging 21:08 of ice time per game playing on the team’s top defensive pairing alongside Andrew MacDonald. |
• The 20-year-old was selected by the Islanders in the second round (53rd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
• The solid shutdown defenseman won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, notching three points (1G-2A) in six games.
|The Penguins and the New York Islanders will meet for the fifth time this season (and the third time in an 18-day span) on Friday at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders, who have already lost an NHL-high 346 man-games to injury so far this season, are reeling from another huge blow sustained on Tuesday to rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin. |
The team is now down to the fifth and sixth goaltenders on their depth chart, as Poulin, who had backstopped his way to a 4-2-1 record and a 2.44 goals-against average since being called up from the American Hockey League in January, suffered a season-ending injury on Tuesday. He dislocated his knee during the team’s morning skate and will need surgery.
With Rick DiPietro sidelined for four-to-six weeks with facial fractures (sustained in the fight with Brent Johnson on Feb. 2) and knee swelling, Nathan Lawson out with a knee injury and Dwayne Roloson being traded to Tampa Bay in January, Mikko Koskinen became the fifth Islanders goalie to appear in a game this season – tying the organization’s franchise record – when he made his National Hockey League debut on Tuesday in a 5-3 loss to Toronto.
But the 22-year-old Koskinen – the Islanders’ second-round pick (31st overall) in 2009 – rebounded quickly from the loss, putting forth an outstanding 37-save effort against Montreal on Thursday in his second-ever NHL start. Koskinen went on to stone all four Canadiens shooters in the shootout to lead his team to a 4-3 victory.
The Islanders currently have seven skaters sidelined, but rising rookie forward Michael Grabner has been stepping up to the plate for his team. He tallied twice on Thursday against Montreal, giving him 19 tallies on the season and putting him second in that category among first-year players. He’s been consistently producing for the Islanders over the past 13 contests, scoring 10 goals and 15 points over that stretch. Kyle Okposo, who returned to the lineup on Jan. 20 after missing the first 44 contests of the season due to injury, scored the lone shootout goal on Thursday to give his team the win. He has five points (2G-3A) in his last 10 games.
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- Pittsburgh has posted back-to-back shutout defeats of the Islanders, topping them 1-0 on Jan. 25 behind 29 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury, and 3-0 on Feb. 2 as Brent Johnson denied all 20 shots he faced before sharing the combined shutout with Fleury after receiving a game misconduct following a bout with New York netminder Rick DiPietro with 16 seconds remaining in regulation. Both games were at CONSOL Energy Center.
- New York has gone seven full periods plus a five-minute overtime since last scoring against the Penguins. Josh Bailey scored the Islanders’ most recent goal 34 seconds into the second period on Dec. 29 at Nassau Coliseum. Since then the Penguins have posted a shutout sequence of 164 minutes and 26 seconds.
- Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season the Penguins have posted an 18-4-2 record against the Islanders, with a 6-3-2 mark in New York. Over the past two seasons Pittsburgh is 13-1-2 against the Islanders.
- Pittsburgh has surrendered three or less goals in 18 consecutive road games. The last time they allowed more than three goals in a road game was Nov. 3 at Dallas.
- The Penguins enter Friday’s game having killed off 30 of 31 opposition power plays (96.8-percent success rate) on the road over their past eight games. They are also clicking at a 38.5-percent clip (5-for-13) on the man-advantage over their past five road games.
- Friday marks the back end of the Penguins’ 11th set of back-to-back games. To date the Penguins own a 15-4-2 overall record in back-to-backs, with an 8-3 record the first night and a 7-1-2 mark the second night.
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|Test Koskinen: Mikko Koskinen will be making just his third-ever NHL start against Pittsburgh on Friday and is riding high after a 37-save performance against the Canadiens on Thursday. The Penguins will need to throw shot after shot at Koskinen, testing the 22-year-old goaltender early, often and hard in his first-ever set of back-to-back contests. |
Take Short Shifts: Friday marks the Penguins’ second tilt in as many days and will be their fourth game in six days. A stretch like that, especially with the influx of injuries to Pittsburgh’s skaters, is bound to cause fatigue in the players. The Penguins will need to make sure they take short, hard shifts in an effort to keep their legs fresh against an Islanders squad that always plays them tough.
| ||F Arron Asham, upper body (IR) |
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Chris Kunitz, lower body (day-to-day)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (4-to-6 weeks)
F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
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| ||F Blake Comeau, concussion (indefinitely) |
G Rick DiPietro, facial fractures and knee swelling (4-6 weeks)
D Mark Eaton, hip surgery (will miss remainder of season)
D Bruno Gervais, upper body (day-to-day)
RW Trent Hunter, torn left MCL (late January)
G Nathan Lawson, strained MCL (early February)
D Mike Mottau, hip surgery (will miss remainder of the season)
G Kevin Poulin, dislocated knee (will miss remainder of season)
D Mark Streit, torn left labrum and rotator cuff (up to six months)
C Doug Weight, back spasms (indefinitely)
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|Crosby (32) ||Moulson/Tavares (19) |
|Crosby/Letang (34) ||Tavares (22) |
|Crosby (66) ||Tavares (41) |
|Cooke (106) ||Konopka (181) |
|Crosby (20) ||Grabner (+6) |
|Crosby (10) ||Tavares (8) |
|Three tied with (2) |
|Nielsen (3) |
|Fleury (26-11-2) |
|Poulin (4-2-1) |
|Johnson (2.04) ||Poulin (2.44) |
|Johnson (.926) ||Poulin (.924) |
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| ||Zbynek Michalek - Michalek made two goal-saving plays against the Kings on Thursday that proved to be crucial in a low-scoring battle that the Penguins won, 2-1, in overtime. The first came with 13:28 left to play in the first, when Justin Williams deked around Fleury and earned himself a wide-open net before Michalek swooped in and swept the puck out of danger. The second came with 5:20 remaining in the opening frame, when a shot squeezed under Fleury and was loose in the crease with Andrei Loktionov ready to pounce. As he went for the kill, Michalek tied up his stick and shielded him from the puck. The team’s “Mustache Boy” for the month of February has been playing his best hockey of the season as of late, even enjoying a season-high three-game point streak from Feb. 1-4. |
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| ||Michael Grabner - Throughout all of the Islanders’ struggles, Grabner continues to be dynamite for his team, posting four goals and six points in his last three games. He scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season in the Islanders’ 4-3 shootout win over Montreal on Thursday, putting him just one tally behind Carolina’s Jeff Skinner for the rookie goal-scoring lead. Grabner’s two-goal performance came after he tallied once in a 5-3 loss to Toronto on Tuesday and notched a goal and an assist in the game before that, a 5-3 loss to Ottawa on Feb. 5. He has been a consistent offensive presence for the Islanders for the past month, scoring 10 goals and 15 points over his last 13 contests dating back to Jan. 13. || |
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Malkin To Undergo Knee Surgery Thursday; Rehab Period Will Be Six Months
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