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Game Preview: Penguins @ Islanders

It's a battle of first place when the Pittsburgh Penguins clash with the New York Islanders on Friday night

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We caught up with our good buddy Dom from Lighthouse Hockey and got the skinny on the New York Islanders. To the questions!

#1: The Islanders have definitely been one of the biggest pleasant surprises of the first half of the season, what's the reason that they've rocketed up to first place? Do you think it is sustainable?

Is first place sustainable? Based on their underlying numbers and health, yes. Of course that can change with injuries or a poorly timed drop in form. But over the summer they improved their forward depth, brought in two immediate upgrades on defense, and finally found the goalie they've been looking for in Jaroslav Halak. They are basically playing as well as they did down the stretch and into the playoffs in 2013, except now they have a good goalie and even more weapons in front of him.

#2: With 30 points on the season Ryan Strome looks like he's living up to his high draft position and is really having a breakout season. For a Penguins fan who might not have seen too much of him yet, describe his game, who does he play with, all that good stuff.

Teammates praise Strome's vision. John Tavares says he sees the ice brilliantly. This is probably why he's been able to produce no matter who he's played with, including fourth-line wingers at times, and never with first-line guys except for at 4-on-4 and occasional first-unit power play time. He has a quick, precise shot and is a good but not blazing skater. He's increasingly pleased the coaching staff by going to the "dirty areas," and the long development they took with him means he arrived at the NHL already very conscientious defensively.

He's been doing it all from the wing, because the Isles are so deep at center and Strome is so versatile.

#3: Goaltending has always seemed to be the big question mark for the Islanders, how is Jaroslav Halak faring? His save % is only about average (.917%) but his record and GAA (23-8, 2.22) say that he is having a very good season. Has he lived up to expectations so far?

Halak had a rough start in the first couple weeks of the season, but since then he's been rock solid. Typical Halak: Not flashy, just steady, compact, good at directing or swallowing rebounds, good at staying square, calm and unphased by mistakes, including his own.

The Isles suppression of shots against has meant he's had several games facing shot totals only in the low 20s, but he's been there more often than not to help rescue them during breakdowns.


Thanks again to Dom at Lighthouse Hockey for his help, be sure to check them out for the flip side of the coin and the questions they had for us about David Perron, injuries and Jim Rutherford.

And now, courtesy of the Penguins, a pretty picture infograph to get you ready to roll.