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Pittsburgh vs. NY Islanders Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0-2) vs. New York Islanders (0-0-0-0)

Where: Nassau Coliseum
Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
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: This is the first of six meetings between the two clubs in 2009-10. Pittsburgh won the season series in 2008-09, 5-0-1. Pittsburgh won two of the three games at Nassau Coliseum, including a 4-3 shootout win on November 8, 2008, and a 5-3 victory on November 26, 2008. Evgeni Malkin led all scorers in the season series, totaling 11 points (5G-6A) in six games while Sidney Crosby notched nine points (2G-5A) in five games. Despite playing only four of the games, Doug Weight led the Islanders with five points (2G-3A).




Game Highlights  
AP Recap  
Withstand Early Attack: Nassau Coliseum should be filled with energy as super-hyped rookie John Tavares makes his National Hockey League debut. Much like Sidney Crosby before him, Tavares has been talked about since his early teenage years, so there will be an added buzz each time he steps onto the ice. Factor in the Islanders being off while the Penguins hosted the Rangers Friday night, and the usual early momentum generated from playing at home, the Penguins could face a blitzkrieg attack. Pittsburgh needs to allow Marc-Andre Fleury to see first-chance shots and clear away all traffic the Islanders are sure to generate.

Roll Four Lines:
Although very early into an 82-game season, it’s never easy playing back-to-back, especially against a rested opponent. The Penguins need to use the overall depth advantage they should have on the Islanders and roll four lines in an effort to keep their star players fresher late into the third period. Pittsburgh outscored the Islanders 10-1 in third periods last season.
New York struggled mightily in 2008-09, finished 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.

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.
N. 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. A regular chance to play in Long Island might be what he needs to make his mark in the NHL.

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 Philadelphia in their first-round matchup with the Pens, including a 3-0 shutout at Mellon Arena in Game 5.
New York’s offense should improve considerably in 2008-09 with the addition of John Tavares and a return to health of newly-named captain Doug Weight. Weight led all Islanders’ forwards in scoring (10G-28A-38P) despite missing 29 games due to injury. Second-year forward Kyle Okposo will be expected to improve upon a rookie campaign which saw him light the lamp 18 times – most on the team. Another second-year player on the upswing is center Josh Bailey. The 2008 first-rounder made the squad as a 19-year-old and contributed seven goals and 18 assists in 68 games. His play improved dramatically in the second half.

Sean Bergenheim and Blake Comeau are two wingers who should benefit from the Islanders' improvement down the middle. Bergenheim scored 15 times and Comeau seven as each missed significant action due to injury. Solid vet Trent Hunter packs a big-bodied frame to provide a net presence on one of the top two lines. He has twice scored 20-plus goals. Former Penguin Richard Park, recently named an alternate captain for New York, offers speed and tenacity on the forecheck, in addition to being a top-notch penalty killer. 
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. A couple of hulking veterans, 6-foot-6 Andy Sutton and 6-foot-2 Brendan Witt are the Islanders’ shutdown defensemen. Witt has had several run-ins with Evgeni Malkin the past two seasons.

Radek Martinek offers solid two-way play on the back end. Although he doesn’t post flashy offensive numbers, Martinek is adept at getting the puck up ice, and is crafty in his own end. Freddy Meyer, a bit undersized, is also capable of helping Streit generate offense from the point position.
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.

Although he turns 40 on Oct. 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. 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.
John Tavares has been in the spotlight since he won the Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the Year award in 2006 as a 15-year-old for the Oshawa Generals when he recorded 77 points (45G-32A) in 65 games. Tavares finished strong in 2008-09 after a disappointing campaign by his lofty standards the year previous. Splitting the season between Oshawa and the London Knights, Tavares scored 56 goals and added 46 assists in 56 contests.

Tavares enhanced his reputation as a clutch performer when Central Scouting’s top prospect for the 2009 draft was named MVP of the 2009 World Junior Championships after scoring eight times and adding seven assists in six games. He was the Canadian Hockey League player of the year in 2007 when he broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for one season by scoring 72 times, Tavares finished his career with 215 career tallies, breaking Peter Lee’s OHL record.
"I will do my best to represent the Islanders and the people in this room … from the training staff and the people that work here to the players I play next to." 

- Islanders’ captain Doug Weight talking to a scrum of New York reporters about being named captain.

4: The number of goalies to post wins for the Penguins against the Islanders in 2008-09. John Curry won both of his NHL decisions against New York, while Marc-Andre Fleury, Mathieu Garon and Dany Sabourin picked up one victory each. 

Author: Jason Seidling

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