Who: New York Islanders (8-4-3, 19 points, 2nd place Eastern Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (7-6-1, 15 points, 5th place in the Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG+ in NYC, NHL Network elsewhere in America
Opponent Track: It’s been three straight wins for NYI since they fell in a shootout one week ago today to the Pens. First, the Isles took down Boston 4-2 on Saturday in a very impressive win. They followed that up with back-to-back wins over Buffalo on Monday and Tuesday by the scores of 3-1 and 3-0.
Pens path ahead: The Isles/Caps party continues for the Pens. They’ll see NYI again on Saturday before Pittsburgh departs next week on Tuesday (2/23) and Thursday (2/25) to meet the Capitals in DC. Then they jump up to the Island for games next Saturday (2/27) and Sunday (2/28) to see NYI again.
Season Series: NYI took the first matchup 4-3 and the Pens won in a shootout last Thursday (the game where Evgeni Malkin scored a goal in the waning moments to tie it). After this week and next week the teams finish out the season against each other on 3/29 and 3/30 in Pittsburgh.
Recent History: The Pens are 4-1-3 in the last eight games against the Islanders
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for the news about the Islanders
Player Stats at a Glance
—The Isles have had an uptick on defense, giving up only three total goals in the three games they played after last seeing the Pens. (Two of those games were against the Sabres, themselves returning from a long COVID break). Regardless, Ilya Sorokin recorded his first career win and shutout on Tuesday and Semyon Varlamov’s stats have magically gone back up towards being tops in the league.
—15 games in, only four players have >3 goals for the Islanders. But those four all have 6-7 goals.
Anders Lee - Mat Barzal - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Jordan Eberle
Michael Del Colle - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy / Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene / Noah Dobson
Possible starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov
Scratches: Sebastien Aho, Ross Johnston, Dmytro Timashov
IR: Johnny Boychuk (LTIR-retired)
—Beauvillier has recently returned from the IR and has not yet played against the Penguins this season.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Sam Lafferty - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour
P.O Joseph / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Cody Ceci
Possible starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, Drew O’Connor
IR: Juuso Riikola, Evan Rodrigues, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann
Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace, Anthony Angello, Frederick Gaudreau, Kevin Czuczman
—Wednesday was a day off for the Pens, we’ll see if they have any changes in the works for the next game.
Extra buzz in the saw
The Pens’ best grind line hasn’t missed a beat since getting fully reformed with the recent return of Zach Aston-Reese. Our pals at with Pens PR laid out some 4-1-1 on them:
After missing the first 11 games of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, Zach Aston-Reese has returned in a big way, picking up goals in all three games he’s played this season (3G). His three-game goal streak is a new career high, besting his two-game goal streak established twice, originally from Feb. 17-18, 2018 (2G). With a point tomorrow, Aston-Reese can tie his career-long point streak of four games, originally set Dec. 29, 2018-Jan. 4, 2019 (2G-2A).
Teddy Blueger has also had a hot start to the season, as he assisted on Aston-Reese’s third-period goal on Tuesday against Washington. Blueger’s eight points (2G-6A) on the year rank fourth on the team, while his plus-3 is third-best. He’s also won 51.7% of his faceoffs (62-58), putting him on pace for the highest face-off win percentage of his career.
The third member of the line, Brandon Tanev, has also been a consistent contributor for Pittsburgh this season. Tanev’s four goals are fourth-most on the team, and he’s been a staple on the Penguins’ penalty kill, logging a team-best 35:21 of shorthanded time on ice. His 68 hits rank fourth in the NHL.