Game Preview: vs New York Islanders - March 15, 2016 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Game Preview: vs New York Islanders - March 15, 2016



Pittsburgh Penguins (36-24-8; 4th Metro) vs New York Islanders (38-21-8; 3rd Metro)
March 15, 2016 @ 7:00 PM - Consol Energy Center
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh

When the Penguins lost to the Islanders 2-1 last Wednesday, it appeared to lay to rest any chance Pittsburgh might have had for catching New York in the Metropolitan Division standings. Afterall, the win gave them a 5 point cushion in the standings in addition to having 2 games in hand. But after wins against the Blue Jackets and Rangers, coupled with the Islanders dropping 2 of of their next 3, the Penguins now find themselves 4 points back with one more game played than the Isles. And it's another huge 4 points swing in the standings at stake with the Pens facing a team in the 2nd game of a back-to-back for the 2nd game in a row. Pittsburgh will hope to continue to rally around Evgeni Malkin's injury and keep the momentum going as they hope to win their 3rd straight game. It'll be the 3rd of 4 contests on the season between the two teams with the Pens having beat the Islanders 5-2 in January and New York having won last week's game.

While the Islanders took away 2 points against the Penguins in the last contest, it came at the expense of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who exited the game early with a groin injury and is expected to miss 6 weeks. His injury opens the door for Thomas Greiss to make a claim to the starting job even if Halak is able to return to the lineup before the Islanders are eliminated from the postseason. Greiss has had a bounce back season splitting starts with Halak after having a disappointing year with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-15. He's posted a 0.928 SV% and 2.25 GAA in 32 appearances, but after playing in last night's win against Florida it's yet to be announced whether the Pens will be facing a tired Greiss or face third string goalie Jean-Francois Berube, who has managed a 0.905 SV% and 3.21 GAA in just 3 NHL games played.

The Islanders have the 5th best scoring offense in the league at 2.82 goals per game, and Brock Nelson has been a big contributor. The third year player already has a career high with 22 goals, and his 34 points place him 5th on the team. John Tavares is leading New York in both those categories with 26 goals and 55 points, and though its been a bit of an off year by Tavares' standards, he's been heating up as of late and enters tonight's game looking to extend a 5 game points streak. A couple more Islanders forwards will be looking to hit goal scoring milestones in the next few games as both Frans Nielsen (19 goals) and Kyle Okposo (18 goals)  are within striking distance of 20 goals on the season. It would be just the 2nd time Nielsen has reached that mark and the 3rd for Okposo, and the increase in scoring depth has helped New York relieve some of the burden that Tavares has had on his shoulders since coming into the league.

Injuries

Penguins: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Scott Wilson (undisclosed), Kevin Porter (ankle), Ben Lovejoy (upper body), Beau Bennett (undisclosed)

Islanders: Jaroslav Halak (groin), Marek Zidlicky (upper body), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body)

Notes

- Sidney Crosby extended his scoring streak to 8 games with a goal and an assist Sunday against the Rangers, and he has 13 points during that timeframe. It's his second longest streak of the season, as he had an 11 game streak with 22 points earlier in the year.

- It was a busy day for the team's front office yesterday as they agreed to 2 year contract extensions with Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, and Tom Kuhnhackl, keeping all three players with Pittsburgh through the 2017-18 season.

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