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Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Islanders Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


THE FUNDAMENTALS
Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-2-14) at New York Islanders (4-8-1-9)

Where: Nassau Coliseum
When: Saturday, November 8, 7 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Talbot-Crosby-Satan
Dupuis-Malkin-Sykora
Kennedy-Staal-Cooke
Fedotenko-Zigomanis-Godard

Defense
Orpik-Letang
Scuderi-Gill
Sydor-Goligoski

Netminder
Fleury
 
 
KEYS TO VICTORY
Play Their Game: The Penguins have a decided advantage in talent, skill and experience over the rebuilding Islanders. Head coach Michel Therrien constantly says the team concentrates more on what the Penguins have to do, regardless of opponent. If Pittsburgh sticks to its plan and plays its game, then it should have success against the Islanders.

Shoot: Joey MacDonald will likely be in net in place of injured franchise goalkeeper Rick DiPietro. MacDonald has played only 27 games in his career and hasn't seen a lot of action against the caliber of talent the Penguins possess. Pittsburgh needs to put every puck on net to test MacDonald, especially early in the game.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE ISLAND
The New York Islanders are in the middle of a rebuilding process. The team let veteran players leave in free agency, in favor of prospects and youth. The team will have a new look and a new head coach with Scott Gordon taking over for Ted Nolan. Gordon is an accomplished coach in the AHL, winning the Coach of the Year award last year with the Providence Bruins.

Gordon’s first campaign behind the bench has been a rocky one with the team off to a 4-8-1 start, including a stretch of six straight losses (0-5-1). With nine players 25 years old or younger, the team is going to experience growing pains. Injuries have also plagued the team this season, as they did last year. All-Star goaltender Rick DiPietro will be out four to six weeks after having knee surgery at the beginning of November. Veteran defenseman Brendan Witt is sidelined for at least three more weeks with a knee injury. Six Islanders are currently on injured reserve and the team will have to stay afloat until those players return.
 
NEW FACES
General manager Garth Snow is entering his third season in that role with the Islanders. Snow’s biggest addition was signing offensive defenseman Mark Streit from Montreal. The Islanders also added veteran Doug Weight to play with his former teammate and friend Bill Guerin. During the offseason, Snow made a commitment to the club’s youth movement, letting veterans Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko and Shawn Bates walk in free agency. The Islanders will rely on their young players to step up and fill the void.
 
FORWARDS
The Islanders ranked 26th in the NHL with 2.62 goals per game and 24th on the power play with a 15 percent conversion rate. Veterans Guerin, Weight, Trent Hunter and Mike Comrie will have to carry the load for a very young Islanders team. Comrie led the team in scoring with 49 points (21G-28A) with Guerin close behind at 44 points (23G-21A). Weight had a disappointing season with only 25 points in 67 games with St. Louis and Anaheim last year. New York is hoping his reunion with Guerin will spike the duos production. Weight already looks rejuvenated with two goals and nine assists (11 points) in 13 games.

The future of the Islanders will be in the hands of players like Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielson and Sean Bergenheim. Of all the team’s prospects, Okposo may have the biggest upside. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He registered fives points in a nine-game stint with the Islanders last season. Okposo will get a lot of opportunities playing alongside Weight and Guerin. 18-year-old Josh Bailey, the ninth overall selection in June, should be close to returning to action after a lower body injury put him on the shelf for a month. His return will add another scoring threat to the lineup.
 
DEFENSEMEN
When it comes to injuries to the defensive corps, the Islanders can sympathize with Pittsburgh. Injuries have ravaged New York's defensive corps the last two seasons. Radek Martinek was the only defenseman to play more than 60 games last season. He wasn’t as lucky this year. A right shoulder injury landed Martinek on injured reserve for four to six weeks. Witt will miss significant time for the second straight season with an injury. Freddy Meyer is the third defenseman on IR and will likely miss a month with a sports hernia.

Free agent signee Streit will shoulder the offensive load for Islanders defense. He picked up career highs in goals (13), assists (49) and points (62) in his final season with the Canadiens. The Islanders are high on 24-year-old Chris Campoli, who missed 35 games to injury last year. Andy Sutton is a veteran defenseman that will provide stability on the blue line. He returned to lineup at the end of October after missing a month to, you guessed it, an injury.
 
GOALTENDING
New York has surrendered 3.46 goals per game, ranking 26th in the league this season. The loss of DiPietro is a huge blow to the Islanders. He is the cornerstone of the franchise and the man the team relies on the most to keep them in hockey games, and steal the occasional win. Injuries have been an issue with DiPietro ever since he signed his blockbuster 15-year contract. He suffered a hip injury in last year’s All-Star Skills Competition. He finished last year with three surgeries (two hips, one knee) and suffered a concussion. DiPietro’s rehab was stifled with another knee surgery in October that will keep him out of action for four to six weeks.

Joey MacDonald will handle the goaltending duties in DiPietro’s absence. MacDonald has played only 27 games in the NHL. Most of his success is at the AHL level. His backup is Yann Danis, who spent most of his career in the Montreal organization. Danis has only six games of NHL experience, spending the majority of his career with Hamilton of the AHL.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: KYLE OKPOSO
The St. Paul, MN, native will be the future face of the Islanders franchise. He had a whirlwind tour last year, playing with four different teams. He started the year with the University of Minnesota and then played for the United States at the World Junior Championship. Okposo then joined Bridgeport of the AHL, netting 28 points (9G-19A) in 35 games. Finally, his played earned him a late season call-up to New York. In his short stint he scored five points in nine games. Okposo is currently skating on the top line with Guerin and Weight, and will see plenty of power-play action.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
“They decided that they’re going to go with young guys and rebuild. I’d rather be on a team that has a chance to win.”
- Miroslav Satan on his departure from New York
 
HIDDEN STAT
1.75: Sidney Crosby’s points per game in his career against the Islanders. He’s notched 35 points (10G-25A) in 20 games against New York.
 
 

Author: Sam Kasan

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