When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG+ on the visiting feed and also available on ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Islanders are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, but over the last 10 days it’s fair to say they’ve slowed down a little. They’re only 3-2 in the last five games and both of their games this week (two wins) came in 3v3 OT with a 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday and a 4-3 win over Boston on Thursday. They deserve credit for still winning, but it’s a thin line between success and failure and NYI has done really well to come out on the positive side of close games this season.
Pens path ahead: After tonight, Pittsburgh hosts the Islanders on Saturday and Monday (3/29). Then next week the Pens hit the road to play Boston on Thursday (4/1) and a week from today on Saturday (4/3).
Season Series: These are the last 2 PIT/NYI games of the regular season. Pittsburgh is 4-2-0 against the Islanders so far this season (with NYI going 2-2-2 from their perspective). New York won the first game of the season series 4-3 back on 2/6, and the Pens took a 4-3 (shootout) win on 2/8 for the first two games from Long Island. The Pens won both of the first two games in Pittsburgh, 4-1 on 2/18 and then 3-2 on 2/20. Pittsburgh took the 4-3 OT on 2/27 but then the Islanders rebounded the next night with a 2-0 win.
Recent History: The Pens are 7-2-3 in the last 12 games overall against the Islanders.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for the latest news to know about the Sabres.
Player Stats at a Glance
—You have to really be jealous of the Islanders’ health, from the Pens perspective. 5 NYI defensemen have played all 34 games this season, only rookie Noah Dobson has missed a handful of games and that seems to be more team/performance decision rather than injury-based. That’s incredible durability, luck, endurance, whatever factor(s) you want to cite.
—Similarly, up front eight forwards have played at least 32 of the 34 games so far, and most of them are the best players on the team. Captain Anders Lee did suffer a season ending knee surgery which will be a big loss (he hasn’t played since March 11th and still is tied for the lead in goals) but that should be an area they can address before the trade deadline.
Leo Komarov - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Michael Del Colle - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom
Cal Clutterbuck - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy / Andy Greene
Thomas Hickey / Scott Mayfield
Announced starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Ross Johnston, Sebastian Aho, Cory Schneider
IR: Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk
—It speaks to how much the 35-year old Andrew Ladd has dropped off that he remains on the taxi squad even in a time of need with the Lee injury. Only two more seasons after this one left!
Trotz comfortable with new-look lines
The Islanders have won three straight, albeit the last two in overtime, and five of seven since captain Anders Lee suffered a season-ending torn right anterior cruciate ligament. They are right in the mix for first place in the East Division.
And coach Barry Trotz is getting increasingly comfortable with his revamped lineup.
“I think we’re settled in right now,” Trotz said after the Islanders practiced in Pittsburgh on Friday. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of change. I think I have a good handle on what’s working and which guys seem to complement each other enough that gives us good balance.”
Wahlstrom extended his point streak to five games against the Bruins with his fourth goal in that span. Josh Bailey scored his second goal in three games on Thursday.
The streaky Beauvillier has goals in three straight games after going eight games without a goal.
“A few guys that we needed to get going a little bit off the schneid have gotten going with some of the changes,” Trotz said.
Trotz may be satisfied for now, but Leo Komarov is a square peg in a round hole situation playing top-line with Barzal. The Islanders are primed to make some sort of trade before the April 12th deadline to add some talent for their playoff run to replace the injured Lee. Jersey winger Kyle Palmieri seems like a good system fit.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese- Jared McCann - Evan Rodrigues
Colton Sceviour - Mark Jankowski - Sam Lafferty
Radim Zohorna - Frederick Gaudreau - Anthony Angello
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Brandon Tanev, Kasperi Kapanen
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Maxime Lagace, Justin Almeida, Drew O’Connor
—These lines are the worst up front the Pens have been with all the injuries, but we dare not see how much worse it can get.
—Ideally Tanev will be back at some point, Pittsburgh was enjoying an off day yesterday so we’ll see if he’s able to make his return for this game. The Pens could really use players coming back instead of going the other way..
Mind that net
The Penguins’ season turned around right when their goaltending got really, really good. (Which was right about the time that their NHL caliber defensemen were getting healthy). Go figure. From the Pens PR staff:
Casey DeSmith turned aside all 36 shots he faced on Thursday night to record his second shutout of the season, and second within his last four starts as the tandem of he and Tristan Jarry have been exceptional for Pittsburgh over the last two months of the season. The Penguins have allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 11 games, and since February 1, no team in the NHL has a better combined save percentage than Pittsburgh:
NY Islanders .927
It’s no surprise to see Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn, the kings of goalie performance, also right there in the running for excellent play from their netminders lately.
Conventional wisdom says this will be a low scoring game. Both teams have been getting great goalie play. The Pens’ forwards are all banged up. The Islanders (skipping a six goal outburst in a game against the Flyers, since everyone is scoring a ton of the Flyers) have only scored seven goals in regulation in their other most recent four games played. The Pittsburgh power play is only 2 for 13 in the first six games of the NYI season series, as well.
With that in mind, it’ll probably be a 4-3, 5-4 game after all since it has no right to be and hockey punishes those who dare to make a prediction.