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What to Watch For: Pens vs. NY Islanders

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (23-8-0) vs. ISLANDERS (13-14-3)
WHEN: March 22, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.  |  WHERE: Nassau Coliseum
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

The New York Islanders were hitting a good stride lately and it has them back in the hunt for a playoff berth. They were on a 5-1-2 roll before losing their last two games to Ottawa and Montreal. They currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, three points out of the eighth spot.

The Islanders will be a hungry team when the Penguins visit on Friday evening at Nassau Coliseum. New York took a 3-1 lead into the third period against the Ottawa Senators, however, Ottawa scored four unanswered third-period goals to win the game 5-3. The Isles were tied, 2-2, in the third period against Montreal before surrendering three third-period goals to the Habs in a 5-2 setback. So you can expect an all-out effort from the Islanders when Pittsburgh is in town.

As always, the Islanders offense is led by 2009 first-overall pick John Tavares. He recorded career highs last season in goals (31), assists (50) and points (81) and is having another marvelous year. Tavares paces the club with 18 goals and 32 points. The Penguins will want to keep him off board, considering the Islanders are 1-9-1 when he is held without a point.

New York got a boost to their lineup Thursday night with the return of forward Michael Grabner. He injured his shoulder in the last contest against the Penguins and hasn't played until Thursday. 

The Islanders bolstered their defense at the 2012 NHL Draft when they acquired Lubomir Visnovsky. It took seven months for the Slovakian blueliner to join his new team, but it was worth the wait. He has nine points (3G-6A) and has been on the ice for 30 of the team’s 48 goals (63%) since he joined the squad. Visnovsky is the focal point of the team’s power play.

Evgeni Nabokov has shouldered the load in net for the Islanders this season. He’s played 25 games this season (only four other goalies in the league have seen more action). He’s posted a respectable 13-9-3 record and two shutouts. In his lifetime, Nabokov is 10-4 against Pittsburgh with a 2.07 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and two shutouts. He was pulled in the previous matchup, a 6-1 Penguins’ win on March 10, after allowed five goals in two periods.

(Getty Images)

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Brad Boyes
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
 Casey Cizikas - Keith Aucoin - Colin MacDonald
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Eric Boulton

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Mark Streit - Radek Martinek

(Getty Images)

Matt Moulson continues to prove that he is one of the league’s deadliest scorers. In his past three season, Moulson, a former draft pick of the Penguins, has topped 30 goals – with a career-high 36 last season. This year the late bloomer has been much more proficient at setting up scores. Moulson leads the team with 21 assists and 32 points (tied). He is riding a six-game assist streak (7A). He has nine points (1G-8A) in his last nine games.

James Neal has gone five games without a goal. What does that mean? He's due to score. Neal is second on the team with 17 goals this season, but has only scored once since linemate Evgeni Malkin was sidelined with an upper-body injury - that goal came against the Islanders. Athletes of Neal's caliber can only be contained for so long. It's only a matter of time before he gets back on the board. Don't be surprised if it happens Friday.

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang both participated in practice this morning. But Coach Dan Bylsma said following morning skate that they both will NOT play against the Islanders. They are both still day-to-day.  


D Kris Letang, lower body
F Evgeni Malkin, upper body


D Matt Carkner, groin
D Calvin de Haan, shoulder
F Jesse Joensuu, sports hernia
G Anders Nilsson, undisclosed
D Brian Strait, fractured ankle
F David Ullstrom, groin

Author: Sam Kasan

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