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Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Islanders Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-5-3-27) at New York Islanders (9-10-2-20)

Where: Nassau Coliseum
When: Wednesday, November 26, at 7 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh
Season Series: Pittsburgh leads 1-0. The Penguins are 1-0 against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum this season with their 4-3 come-from-behind, shootout victory on Nov. 8.



  Pens vs. Islanders 11/08
Crosby 11/25
Sabourin 11/25
Dupuis 11/25s
Orpik 11/25
Satan 11/25
Power Play: The Penguins scored one power-play goal in their last 12 chances. As a result, head coach Michel Therrien altered the power-play units, adding Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke. Pittsburgh went 0 for 4 in the last meeting between these two clubs at Nassau Coliseum. The Penguins road power play ranks last in the NHL. With five of their next six games away from Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh needs to find some fire power with the man-advantage for a successful road trip.

Start Fast: The Islanders are a hot team right now. They've won five of their last six games and are playing with a lot of confidence. The Penguins need to put pressure on New York and its rookie goaltender, Joey MacDonald, early and set the tone. If the Islanders start the game hot, there may be no stopping them.
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 has 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 had a rocky beginning when the team started the season with a 4-9-2 record, including a stretch of six straight losses (0-5-1). However, the team has rebounded well, winning five of its past six games. Injuries have 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 was sidelined for three weeks with a knee injury. Five Islanders are currently on injured reserve and the team will have to stay afloat until those players return.
General manager Garth Snow is entering his third season in that role with the Islanders. Snow’s biggest addition was signing 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.
The Islanders rank 23rd in the NHL with 2.57 goals per game. Veterans Guerin, Weight, Trent Hunter and Mike Comrie will have to carry the load for a very young Islanders team. Last year, Weight had a disappointing season with only 25 points in 67 games with St. Louis and Anaheim. He looks rejuvenated and is pacing the team with 21 points (4G-17A) in 21 games. Guerin and Hunter are tied for second on the team with 15 points. Both men also are tied for the team lead with eight goals. Comrie posted eight points (2+6) in 14 games but has been sidelined with a hip injury.

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, returned to action after a lower body injury put him on the shelf for a month.
When it comes to injuries to the defensive corps, the Islanders can sympathize with Pittsburgh. Injuries have ravaged the defensive corps the last two seasons. Radek Martinek was the only defenseman to play more than 60 games. He wasn’t as lucky this year. A right shoulder injury landed Martinek on injured reserve for four to six weeks. Witt already missed significant time for the second straight season with an injury. Freddy Meyer was the third defenseman to land on IR this season 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). He’s currently leading the Islanders defensemen with points (14) on five goals and nine assists. 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.
New York has surrendered 3.10 goals per game, ranking 22nd in the league. The loss of DiPietro is a huge blow to the Islanders. He is the cornerstone to 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 a concussion. DiPietro’s rehab was stifled with another knee surgery that will keep him out of action for four to six weeks.

Joey MacDonald has handled the goaltending duties in DiPietro’s absence. He’s put up respectable numbers in his first pro action with a 9-7-2 record, 2.78 goals against average and .912 save percentage. Most of his previous success occurred in the AHL. His backup is Yann Danis, who spent most of his career in the Montreal organization. Danis has only seven games of NHL experience, spending the majority of his career with Hamilton of the AHL.
Trent Hunter has tormented the Penguins throughout his five-year career. He’s scored more points (17) and goals (9) in 31 career games against Pittsburgh than against any other team in the league. Hunter elevates his game whenever the Penguins are in town. He was held off the scoresheet in the previous meeting between the two clubs so he’s due to be a difference maker this time around. Hunter is a tough player that will camp out in front of the crease and create havoc for Dany Sabourin.
"You just watch the way they’re playing now, as opposed to the way they were playing last time we played them. They have a lot more confidence going their way."
- Brooks Orpik
Trent Hunter notched his first NHL goal and assist against the Penguins. He recorded his first assist on January 1, 2003. Hunter scored his first goal on Sebastian Caron on Oct. 25, 2003.

Author: Sam Kasan

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