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Pittsburgh vs. Islanders Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (17-8-0-34) vs. New York Islanders (9-9-7-25)

Where: Nassau Coliseum
When:
Friday, November 27, 2:00 p.m.
Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
The Penguins and Islanders meet on Long Island for the second time in ’09-10. Pittsburgh was New York’s opponent in the season opener at Nassau Coliseum as the Penguins wiped out a 2-1 Islanders’ lead after 40 minutes and secured a 4-3 shootout victory on Kris Letang’s deciding goal. Sidney Crosby and Ruslan Fedotenko each had a goal and an assist while Islanders’ rookie sensation John Tavares registered two points (1G-1A) in his National Hockey League debut.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Talbot-Crosby-Guerin
Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko
Cooke-Staal-Bourque
Rupp-Adams-Godard

Defense
Gonchar-Orpik
Eaton-Engelland
Skoula-Lovejoy

Netminder
Johnson


Last Meeting: Oct. 3, 2009
PIT 4 - NYI 3 SO
Game Highlights
AP Recap
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Contain Hunter: He isn’t one of the league’s premier goal scorers, but you can forgive Penguins fans if they thought Trent Hunter was. In 35 career games against the Penguins Hunter has 22 points (11G-11A), his highs in all three categories against any one team. Hunter had two points (1G-1A) in the season-opener against Pittsburgh. Not only does he score points in bunches against the Penguins, he always scores goals at critical points in hockey games, similar to the way his third-period tally on Oct. 3 momentarily gave New York a 3-2 lead.

Traffic on Roloson:
Dwayne Roloson will likely get the start for the Islanders as he continues to rotate with partner Martin Biron. Roloson has been New York’s most indispensible player through the first quarter of the season, with his .916 save percentage tangible evidence of that. Roloson is coming off a 58-save performance in a 4-3 win over Toronto in his previous appearance.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE ISLANDERS
New York struggled mightily in 2008-09, finishing last in the overall league standings with a 26-47-9 overall record. Only the Colorado Avalanche scored fewer times than the 201 goals the Islanders netted. New York struggled with injuries between the pipes, as starter Rick DiPietro played in only five games all season, so journeymen Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis were forced to carry more of a load than they could handle. Led by youngsters John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo – what the team hopes is their core moving forward – the Islanders have been among the pleasant surprises of the early season, sitting right on the edge of a playoff spot despite residing in the always-tough Atlantic Division.

Scott Gordon begins his second season behind the bench on Long Island. The former Quebec Nordique netminder came to the Islanders after five-plus seasons behind the bench for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. He won that league’s coach of the year honor in 2007-08 when he led the Bruins to the best record in the AHL at 55-18-7. Gordon served as an assistant to Ron Wilson this past spring on the United State’s entry in the World Championships.
 
NEW FACES
No. 1 overall selections always generate a buzz, and John Tavares has certainly done that for a New York franchise that could use some star-power. He instantly becomes the most dynamic goal scorer on the Islanders’ roster, having produced 58 goals and 46 assists in the Ontario Hockey League during the 2008-09 campaign split between Oshawa and London. Another interesting face up front who Penguins fans might remember is center Rob Schrempf, claimed off waivers earlier this week from the Edmonton Oilers. The former 2004 first-round draft pick of the Oilers spent time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2006-07 season when the Penguins and Oilers both supplied players. Schrempf is an outstanding puckhandler with an array of shootout moves. He has been in and out of the lineup on Long Island, picking up two helpers in eight contests.

As mentioned, the Islanders were hit hard by a lack of goaltending depth a season ago, so they took drastic measures to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. First, they signed former Oilers’ No. 1 netminder Dwayne Roloson. Roloson nearly backstopped the Oilers into the Western Conference playoff field, finishing with a 28-24-9 record and an impressive .915 save percentage. Later in the summer the team added a name familiar to Penguins fans, Martin Biron. The former Flyer was superb at times for the Flyers in their first-round matchup with the Penguins, including a 3-0 shutout at Mellon Arena in Game 5.
 
FORWARDS
New York ranks among the most-improved teams in the NHL because their young core – John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen – have been among their best players, spurring hope the franchise is on the right track. Tavares, Nielsen and Bailey give the Islanders three offensive-minded centers to match wits both now and in the future with the Penguins dynamic trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Tavares has been everything he was built to be – namely a consistent point-producer, a solid playmaker and a presence to make those around him better. He leads the Islanders in assists (11) and points (20). His goal (9) and point total pace all NHL rookies. Bailey, 20, centers the third line, but his six goals rank fourth on the team. He came on strong in the second half of last season and has continued where he left off this year. Nielsen is the elder statesman of the bunch at 25. Bouncing between the Islanders and their American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport his first couple years, Nielsen looks the part of the consummate second-line center – good playmaker and sound positionally.

21-year-old Okposo has formed a nice chemistry with Nielsen on the second line. An 18-goal scorer in 65 games last season, Okposo gives the Islanders a deft shooting touch on the wing as he further develops into a power forward with soft hands around the net. Sean Bergenheim and Blake Comeau are two wingers whose scoring touch should improve with the infusion of talent around them. Neither are off to particularly strong starts as Bergenheim has three goals in 25 games and Comeau has one tally in 14 contests. Bergenheim scored 15 times and Comeau seven last season as each missed significant action due to injury. Comeau was a healthy scratch in New York’s 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Solid vet Trent Hunter continues to make a living around the front of the net with his net-front presence. He is currently riding an eight-game point streak (4G-4A). A guy who always seems to score big goals against the Penguins, Hunter has twice scored 20-plus goals. Former Penguin Richard Park, an alternate captain for New York, offers speed and tenacity on the forecheck, in addition to being a top-notch penalty killer. Jeff Tambellini has been a great fit on the third line, already equaling last season’s career high with seven goals, third-most on the team.
 
DEFENSEMEN
As youthful as the Islanders are up front, they have a veteran group on the back end. Power-play specialist Mark Streit, a marquee free agent addition a season ago from Montreal, led the Islanders in scoring in 2008-09 with 56 points (16G-40A). He scored 10 of his goals and 29 of his points on the power play. One of the league’s better players at getting low, accurate shots from the point, Streit has 14 points (4G-10A) through 25 games to lead all Islanders’ defenders. A couple of hulking veterans, 6-foot-6 Andy Sutton and 6-foot-2 Brendan Witt are the Islanders’ shutdown defensemen. Sutton is not afraid to get in your face both before and after the whistle, and he uses his massive frame to step in front of opposing shots – his 70 blocked shots through Wednesday are second most in the league.Witt has had several run-ins with Evgeni Malkin the past two seasons.

Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais are two unheralded performers who have taken on increased minutes with Radek Martinek sidelined the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Gervais’ 21:34 of ice time ranks second on the team behind only the 25:35 averaged by Streit. Freddy Meyer, a bit undersized, is also capable of helping Streit generate offense from the point position.
 
GOALTENDING
There might not be a team in the NHL that can match the depth the Islanders have between the pipes. They have three men capable of being a legitimate No. 1 backstop on a team with playoff aspirations in Rick DiPietro, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. Still recovering from offseason hip surgery, DiPietro is probably the most talented of the three, but with two surgeries on both his hip and knees within the past two seasons, he can hardly be counted on to withstand a full season. He returned to practice on Tuesday and will spend the next few weeks regaining his stamina before heading to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment.

Although he turns 40 on October 12, Roloson proved late last season for the Edmonton Oilers that he is still capable of carrying a team. His 28 wins a year ago are more impressive when you consider he also had to emerge from a three-headed monster in goal at the beginning of last season, splitting time with former Penguin Mathieu Garon and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. Roloson’s consistency has been just what the doctor ordered for New York, posting a 7-2-5 record and .916 save percentage in leading the Islanders to a 9-9-7 record. His 58-save performance on Monday night against Toronto was the main reason New York was able to grab a 4-3 overtime victory.

Biron went unsigned until late July when the Islanders picked him up as veteran insurance. While Penguin fans enjoyed mocking him with chants of “Marty, Marty” the past two postseasons, Biron has also proved his worth as the top option for a good team.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: MATT MOULSON
Islanders head coach Scott Gordon placed 26-year-old Matt Moulson on a line with rookie sensation John Tavares in training camp and the duo has for the most part stayed together since. Gordon challenged Moulson to maintain his preseason scoring pace when the games count for real, and Moulson has been able to do so. The 6-foot-1 Cornell graduate has been the Islanders top goal-scoring threat with a team-leading 11 tallies to go along with his 19 points, which are second-most on the team behind Tavares.

Moulson was originally a ninth-round draft pick of the Penguins in 2003, but he never came to terms with Pittsburgh, instead signing with the Los Angeles Kings organization after leaving Cornell. He spent three seasons with the Kings, displaying a deft scoring touch around the net with 20-plus goals in each of his three campaigns with Manchester of the AHL.
 
INJURY UPDATE
New York will be without two of their top players when they take on the Penguins.
- Captain Doug Weight, who has played only 11 games in ’09-10, is out until mid-December with an undisclosed upper-body injury. He missed the first meeting between the teams as well.
- Radek Martinek, possibly the best all-around defenseman on the Islanders’ roster, is out for the season following a torn ACL in his right knee suffered against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 6.
- Goaltender Rick DiPietro, who hasn’t played since Jan. 2, 2009, returned to practice on Tuesday as he continues to rehab from several surgeries on his right knee.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
“To me, it’s just another night, another game. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s one shot or 100 shots, I’ve got to do the same things, try to give my team a chance to win.”

- Islanders’ goaltender Dwayne Roloson talking to the New York Post following his 58-save performance in a 4-3 overtime victory over Toronto on Monday night.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
0: The amount of shorthanded goals surrendered by the Islanders through their first 25 games. Detroit and Atlanta are the only other teams that have yet to allow a shorthanded tally.
 





Author: Jason Seidling

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