The Pittsburgh Penguins (6-5-1) hit their 3rd stop in a 4-game road trip on Saturday when they take on the New York Islanders (6-4-0). The Penguins, who are in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division are just 1-point ahead of the New York Islanders, who have 2 games in hand against Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday night, and then lost to the Avalanche in Colorado on Thursday night. The Pens will be gunning for the win on Saturday to put a little more distance between the 2 teams in the divisional standings.
The Islanders have won 3 of their last 4 games, including a 4-0 shutout in their last game on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rick DiPietro made 28 shots in that game for his 12th career shutout and added to the offense with an assist. It was a good rebound from a terrible game against Carolina on Saturday in which he gave up 6-goals in roughly 30-minutes, and lost 8-3. The Islanders offense has been firing on all cylinders, scoring four or more goals in three of its last four games. Bill Guerin has found the back of the net five times in that span. New York went 4-3-1 against Pittsburgh last season.
Al Arbour , who won four Stanley Cup titles as coach of the Islanders, will be given the honor of returning for one night to reach 1,500 career games on Saturday. Arbour took over as coach of New York in 1973-74. Within a year, he turned the team around and took them on a 12-year playoff streak that included 5 trips to the Stanley Cup finals. The Islanders will honor Arbour on Saturday by giving him a chance to coach his 1,500th game with the team. That total and his 739 career wins with New York are the most ever by one coach with one team.
The Penguins, who have been searching for consistency, are coming off two good road games. Sidney Crosby has 31 points (9G, 22A) in 15 career games against the Islanders. Crosby has scored at least one point in every game since going scoreless in the season opener in Carolina, . He is 3rd in the NHL points race with 19 points in 12-games, just 5-points behind Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and 1-point behind Calgary’s Jarome Iginla. He has put up 6-points (3G, 3A) on the road in his last two games. Evgeni Malkin has also been on a scoring streak having accumulated 9-points (2G, 7A) in his last 4 games. Malkin is tied for 7th place in the points race with 17-points (5G, 12A). Since being rejoined on the top line a few games ago, the Crosby-Malkin show has been impressive and productive. Backup tender Dany Sabourin has been largely solid between the pipes in subsequent starts, but we anticipate that Marc-Andre Fleury will return to the net for Saturday’s game.
Going head-to-head the Islanders have the slight advantage. The Isles have netted an average of 3.0 goals per game while letting in 3.3 goals per game. The Penguins have averaged 2.9 goals per game, and 3.1 goals against per game. The Islanders run the #2 power-play in the league at 26.1% effectiveness, while the Penguins hold the #3 spot at 23.8%. On the penalty kill, the Islanders have an 87% to 83,9% advantage in effectiveness over the Pens.
NHLPens.com Prediction: This game will come down to who plays the most discplined hockey, as the red hot power play of both teams could likely be the deciding factor. The Penguins have been playing a better game on whole lately, and will display a bit more team cohesion from playing on the road. Neither team is a defensive stone wall, so I don’t expect a low scoring affair. I predict the Pens will win by a score of 5-3 over the Islanders with 2-power play goals. Most likely goal scorers for this game are Evgeni Malkin, Gary Roberts, Maxime Talbot, Jordan Staal and Sergei Gonchar.
Go Pens Go!