Islanders Look For A Reversal Of Fortune Tonight Against The Penguins
The Islanders will be looking for a better outcome when they play host to division rival Pittsburgh tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Penguins come to town winners of ten straight games, including a complete destruction of the Isles the last time these two teams met; a March 10th contest in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins lead the season series 2-1. They lost to New York 4-1 at home in January, but have outscored the Isles 10-3 in the two games since.
As hot as Pittsburgh has been of late, they have been without star Evgeni Malkin. It's unclear if Malkin, out since March 9th with a shoulder injury, will be in the lineup tonight in New York. He has resumed contact in practices, but it could be a game time decision on whether the talented centerman will play. (Photo credit: flikr/Dan4th)
The Islanders, who have lost two in a row since returning home from a short but productive road trip, need to find a cure to their third period woes. They have given up a league worst 45 goals in the third period so far this season. That's an average of 1.5 goals per game in the third period so far this season.
Combine that with a decidedly bad home record of 5-10-2 and it's easy to see why the Isles are on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff positioning.
New York has played 17 home games so far this season and have scored 44 goals at home. They have scored 42 on the road, but in 4 less games. The big difference? They have given up 21 more goals at home than on the road, and in only 4 more games!
Whatever is causing the Isles these issues, they face a tough draw tonight in their attempt to turn it around. The Pens are the highest scoring team in the National Hockey League and are equally dangerous at home or on the road.
The Pens are lead, as always, by superstar Sidney Crosby, but the Steel City team has no lack of scoring outside of Crosby, even with Malkin on the shelf. Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, and James Neal have no trouble finding the back of the net. For the season, Pittsburgh has five players averaging over a point a game.
It is unclear if Pittsburgh will start Mark-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun, but don't be surprised if the Isles face Fleury since the Pens have been off for three days and won't play again until Sunday evening at home against Philadelphia.
The Isles will counter with Evgeni Nabokov. The veteran netminder had last night off when the Isles lost to Montreal 5-2.
The Isles should come out fired up to play Pittsburgh after last night's loss. There was some seriously questionable refereeing. However, there are two other reasons they should be able to play a strong game: the return of both Michael Grabner and Matt Carkner. Both played last night, but it was their first action since returning from injury. (Photo credit: flikr/bridgetds)
Expect the Isles top line, who returned to form against the Canadiens, to continue to create offense. The larger worry will be can the other lines create enough offense to keep the Isles in the game tonight. That has been something that has plagued the Long Island squad all season.
The Isles will also have to play better team defense. New York will need to control the action in their own zone, force the Pens out wide, play sound positionally and jump on loose pucks or this could be another game that they give up a lot of goals.
This is a huge game for the Isles. They can ill afford a three game losing streak, especially at home. They need this one and bad. Will they realize it and play 60 minutes? If they don't, expect the same results as the last two times they played Pittsburgh.
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