Good afternoon hockey fans. Tonight the Pens will face the New York Islanders in a Metro Division showdown.
This will continue their 9-game Metro stretch. The Pens are currently 3-1 so far, the only loss coming against the Islanders in Brooklyn. Pittsburgh is 10-3-1 in its last 14 against the division.
The Islanders hosted the Florida Panthers last night, pulling out a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. New York trailed 2-0 in the third period with 13 minutes left. They scored 3 goals in 5+ minutes to secure the win.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss started in that contest. According to the team’s official website, Jean-Francois Berube may start against the Pens. It would be his 4th appearance of the season.
MORNING SKATE DEETS Scott Wilson was absent from the team’s morning skate as he continues to recover from an injury suffered last Friday night in Columbus.
“Wilson still has a fair amount of swelling,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s going to be re-evaluated again tonight by our medical staff and doctors. We’ll probably have more information tomorrow.”
Injured players Ben Lovejoy (upper-body) and Beau Bennett (upper-body) were both on the ice. Lovejoy (11 games missed) is fully recovered, but the team is waiting to put him back in the lineup. Bennett (21) needs some more recovery time.
“Ben Lovejoy is for all intents and purposes is ready to play,” Sullivan said. “We’d like to get him in a practice or two, so that he gets more contact, more intensity to his practice before we make a decision to put him in the lineup.
“Beau is still a work in progress. He’s had practices where he’s played with us. I don’t think our medical staff or Beau have felt comfortable yet that he’s ready to take the next step. He’s certainly trying to get there.”
The Pens used the following workflow… Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel Simon-Cullen-Rust Kuhnhackl-Fehr-Sheary (Bennett)
SPECIAL TEAMS Whenever the Pens and Islanders face each other, the team that wins the special teams battle typically wins the game. In the previous matchup in New York on March 8, the Islanders won 2-1 on the strength of 2 power-play goals.
The Pens defeated the Islanders in Pittsburgh on Jan. 2 with a 5-2 score. The Pens posted 2 man-advantage goals in the game (both from Sidney Crosby).
“I think the last time we played them, special teams was the difference and I think from our standpoint, our special teams has to be better on both sides,” Sullivan said. “I would expect a similar type of game. They like to play a speed game, so do we. So I’m sure the game will involve pace. But we expect a hard-fought battle.”
RE-SIGNED On Monday the Pens announced that they signed 3 players to 2-year, 1-way contract extensions. Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Scott Wilson all will be members of the Pens through the 2017-18 campaign.
“It’s great. I’m happy for them. I think it’s good for our organization,” Sullivan said. “They’re good people, first and foremost. They’re the types of guys we want on our team. And they’re good players. I think they’re only going to get better. They’re very good players. They’re hungry and I think they have an insatiable appetite to be out on the ice. Those are the types of guys we want in our dressing room. I think their play has spoken for itself and they’re very deserving.”
All three were draft picks of the Pens. Rust was taken in the 3rd round (80th overall) in 2010. Kuhnhackl was also chosen in 2010 in the 4th round (110th overall). Wilson was selected in the 7th round (209th overall) in 2011.
“It’s obviously nice for me. It’s something that I’ve been working towards, and it’s something that I’ve been trying really hard to get,” Rust explained. “I’m very pleased with it, but I’m not going to be satisfied. It’s kind of something that I’ve learned over the years. There’s always something better, and there’s always something to work for. I’m happy where I’m at now, but there’s always room to build.”
“If you look at my career the last couple of years, I started down in the East Coast and played there for a year and a half,” Kuhnhackl said. “Then, I worked my way into the AHL into a regular player there, power play and penalty kill and all that stuff. Obviously it feels great to be up in Pittsburgh right now, and I’m really happy I got the extension.”
THIS 'N AT *Chris Kunitz will be play in his 800th career NHL game.
*Marc-Andre Fleury is going for his 30th win of the season, which would give him 8-career 30-win seasons.
*Sidney Crosby carries an 8-game point streak (4G-9A) into tonight's game.
*Crosby is 1 goal away from his 7th 30-goal season.