Who: New York Islanders (28-24-7, 63 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (27-19-9, 63 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh for the Pens’ viewing market, MSG Network for the visitors, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Since we last saw the Islanders a few days ago at the beginning of this Presidents’ Day Weekend, NYI took a trip up to Boston and received a 6-2 butt whoopin’ from the probable President’s Trophy winner on Saturday. NYI is 1-2-2 in their last five, with that lone win coming at the expense of the Penguins on Friday night.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens get two days off after today, to prepare for Leon and Connor who are storming into town with the Oilers on Thursday. Then it’s a busy upcoming weekend with an afternoon game at St. Louis next Saturday, followed by a Sunday evening home game against Tampa.
Season Series: The Islanders took the first meeting back on December 27th, in a 5-1 game that Pittsburgh virtually no-showed following the Christmas break. NYI made a rally for a third period comeback to win in regulation 5-4 on Friday night. After this week, the fourth and final game of the season series will be in Pittsburgh on March 9th.
Hidden Stat: Since Tristan Jarry’s last injury on January 24th, the Pens are 30th in the league with 36.7 shots allowed per game — but also second in the NHL with an average of 39.1 shots on goal as well.
Hidden Stat II: At PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins have won five straight games against the Islanders, and have points in seven consecutive contests against NYI overall (6-0-1)...And just in general, the Pens are 11-3-3 in their last 17 home games this season.
Getting to know the Islanders
SBN partner blog: Lighthouse Hockey
Saturday Game Lines
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mat Barzal*
Zach Parise - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Hudson Fasching
Simon Holmstrom - Andy Andreoff - Ross Johnston
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov / Scott Mayfield
Sebastien Aho / Noah Dobson
Goalies: Ilya Sorokin (Semyon Varlamov)
Scratches: Josh Bailey, Parker Wotherspoon
IR: J.G. Pageau, Cal Clutterbuck, Oliver Walhstrom
—It’s likely the above from last game’s lines won’t be what the Islanders use tonight. Arnaud Durandeau was called up yesterday. Durandeau, 24, has 33 points (13G+20A) in 48 games with AHL Bridgeport. If he plays tonight it will be the NHL debut for the former sixth round draft pick in 2017.
—Durandeau’s presence in the NHL is needed because Mat Barzal only played three shifts on Saturday due to injury and it looks like he won’t be playing tonight. Frequent Penguin killer Josh Bailey also was recently injured (during the second period of Friday’s game against the Pens). Bailey wasn’t able play on Saturday against the Bruins and is not expected to even be on the trip to Pittsburgh. J.G. Pageau is eligible to return from IR, but doesn’t appear to be healthy enough right now to play tonight. Those injuries are mounting and adding even more difficulty for NYI’s problems right now.
Sorokin the major difference on Friday
Boston’s Linus Ullmark has been absolutely unreal this season, but Ilya Sorokin has been right there with him. Even though Pittsburgh touched Sorokin up for four goals on Friday night, by expected goals he acquitted himself well based on the 5.11 xGF that Moneypuck said the Pens earned.
Goals Saved Above Expected Leaders - February 18 pic.twitter.com/lzIxRcwVfw— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 18, 2023
A good goalie can make up for a lot, and when competing against a bad goalie, well that turns losses into wins. As also seen from Moneypuck’s charting for Friday’s Pens/Islanders game.
The Pens “should” have won, but as The Wire taught us — deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it. When one team has a Sorokin-caliber goalie and another team has a Casey DeSmith, well, the expectations don’t always hold up to be the actual results.
—Brock Nelson (who scored two goals and added an assist on Friday against the Pens) has been on a tear with 16 points (9G+7A) in his last 13 games. Nelson went scoreless against Boston to break a 12-game point streak
—If Barzal, Bailey and Pageau are all out tonight, as it seems they will be, that’s three of the top six scoring forwards on the season that will be unavailable for the Islanders. A lot is going to fall on Nelson, Lee and Horvat to pick up a lot the slack considering down the lineup there aren’t too many scorers to be found.
—One player who has been stepping up lately is Palmieri. He’s got nine points (3G+6A) in 11 games since returning from the lineup from an injury on January 23rd. Palmieri notched an assist on Zach Parise’s game-winning goal in the third period on Friday night.
And now for the Pens...
Saturday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Drew O’Connor - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Dustin Tokarski)
Scratches: Danton Heinen, Mark Friedman (upper-body injury), Ryan Poehling (injury)
IR: Tristan Jarry, Jan Rutta
—The last week has been a whirlwind for the Pens. There was the game on Tuesday in San Jose, followed by the cross-country flight back to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Pens practiced in Cranberry and then flew to NYC. On Friday, they played the Islanders and flew back to Pittsburgh. On Saturday they had a bit of an early start against the Devils. Finally, on Sunday they were able to take a rest. That’s a lot of traveling and some games crammed in there. That’s life in the NHL to an extent, but a heavier week than usual for now a third game in four days.
—Will there be any goalie movement? The answer might come in the afternoon if the Penguins take Jarry off of the IR. Coach Mike Sullivan has said the right things about the goalie getting closer and closer, but he’s still had no chances for a full practice, so we will have to see how that one goes. Given the scheduling, Thursday against Edmonton might align a little better for a clearance, so we’ll see how that goes.
—If so, personally it would be a big chance at redemption for DeSmith if he’s tabbed to make another start. He was rotten on Friday giving up five goals on only a 2.2 expected against the Isles, but given his up and down history from game to game this could be a shot at righting the ship.
The master of the Island
Sidney Crosby recorded a goal and an assist on Friday against the Islanders. Over the years he has been ridiculously productive against them. Per Pens PR, here’s this detail.
Throughout his career, Sidney Crosby has played dominant hockey against the New York Islanders. In 80 career games, Crosby has recorded 130 points (41G-89A) against the Islanders, helping Pittsburgh to a 49-21-10 record in those games. He has more than double the amount of multi-point games against them (39) as opposed to games with no points (19). Only Jaromir Jagr (155) and Mario Lemieux (131) have more points against the Islanders in NHL history than Crosby’s 130.
Crosby’s 130 points versus the Islanders are also the most that any active player has against one single team:
Player PTS Opponent
Sidney Crosby 130 New York Islanders
Sidney Crosby 121 Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby 100 New York Rangers
Alex Ovechkin 99 Carolina Hurricanes
Alex Ovechkin 98 Winnipeg Jets
Alex Ovechkin 95 Tampa Bay Lightning
One short of Mario is pretty good and just one more of those little landmarks that a while back we probably would have thought no one would have challenged. Since Jagr scored points for a bunch of non-Pittsburgh teams, Crosby is just a few points away from being the most prolific Penguin against the Islanders ever. Just one more feather in the goat’s cap.