New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh Penguins
The Islanders look to end their three-game skid as they complete their home-and-home with the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday night
Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
|Team Record: 3-4-0
Last Game: 3-0 L vs. PIT
Season Series: 0-1-0 of 6
|Team Record: 7-2-2
Last Game: 3-0 W vs. NYI
Season Series: 1-0-0 of 6
The Islanders forward led the team in scoring his first two seasons in the league, but the 2010-11 campaign was marked by injury. Okposo sustained a shoulder injury during preseason and would not return to game action until Jan. 20, 2011 against Washington.
The Minnesota native would generate good chemistry with his linemates, Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen, and would go on to play the final 38 regular season games. In that span, Okposo notched 5 goals, 15 assists and a +3 rating.
After a healthy off season, Okposo is ready to return to a dominant force on the Islanders offensive corps. In the first seven games, the right wing has averaged 16:22 of ice time per game and has recorded one assist. Like the rest of the Islanders roster, he's putting shots on net (three last game) so he can break out, starting with his first goal of the season.
After sitting out since Oct. 13 with a knee injury, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup Tuesday night. Though he didn’t record any points in his return, Malkin has averaged a point-per-game in his first four games (1-3=4) and his 19:19 of ice time on Tuesday night was the second most amongst Penguins forwards.
Islanders leading scorer John Tavares said you can never underestimate a player like Malkin.
“He’s obviously one of the best players in the world," Tavares said. "He may not have been at his best last game, but you can still see that he makes a lot of plays happen, he draws a lot of attention and that opens up a lot of room for other guys. That’s what good guys do. They may not always have their best games but you can still notice them and they still make a difference.”
As the Islanders left Long Island for their second road trip of the season on Wednesday afternoon, they were headed to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh for their second half of a home-and-home with the Penguins.
The Penguins won the first game 3-0 on Tuesday as Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stole the show, but the Islanders still played well and got shots and bodies to the net.
“You just have to get pucks where he’s not,” Tavares said about getting pucks past Fleury on Thursday. “We just have to get as many shots as we can. Second and third opportunities are really hard for a goaltender to get set and be in position for, so it’s those rebounds chances that get him out of position and out of his stance, which usually give you some better opportunities and more of the net to shoot at.”
Taking the positive out of the team's statistical performance on Tuesday, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said he just wants his team to do more of the same and hopefully this time, they'll have luck on their side.
Season Series: This is the second matchup between the Atlantic Division rivals in three days. Pittsburgh scored a 3-0 victory on Tuesday in Uniondale, N.Y., in the first of six meetings between the teams this season. The game was Dan Bylsma's 200th behind the bench since taking over in Pittsburgh on Feb. 16, 2009. Ironically, Bylsma's first game was also at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders and he lost in a shootout. Bylsma is 121-58-21, a .658 winning percentage. Pittsburgh went 4-1-1 against the Isles last season. (Continue Reading)
Tuesday, the Islanders outshot the Penguins 33-29, but Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all pucks for the shutout at Nassau Coliseum. Pascal Dupuis scored just over 17 minutes in and ex-Islander Richard Park scored 21 seconds into the second period to bring the score 2-0. With two minutes remaining in regulation, Jordan Staal converted on an empty net to provide the final score.
|- Milan Jurcina - Groin (9/27 at CGY) - 7 games missed (Day-to-day)
- Mark Katic - Shoulder (9/24 vs. NJ) - 7 games missed (Out indefinitely)
- Rhett Rakhshani - Concussion (9/27 at CGY) - 7 games missed (Out indefinitely)
- Nino Niederreiter - Groin (9/30 at NJ) - 7 games missed (Day-to-day)
IslandersPower Play %: 18.5%
Penalty Kill %: 92.3%
Home Record: 3-2-0
Road Record: 0-2-0
Goals For: 14
Goals Against: 17
PenguinsPower Play %: 20.0%
Penalty Kill %: 97.1%
Home Record: 3-1-1
Road Record: 4-1-1
Goals For: 33
Goals Against: 22
(Answer from 10/25: Chicago. On Mar. 25, 2003, the Isles routed the Blackhawks 9-2 at United Center. Alexi Yashin scored four goals and Garth Snow stopped 21 of 23 shots in the Islanders victory.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart to view the lines. Evgeni Nabokov will get the start again tonight and Rick DiPietro will back him up.
Milan Jurcina returns to the lineup in place of Mike Mottau. Capuano said, "Mike (Mottau) has played extremely well for us, as have all our D. We just want to get Jooce (Jurcina) back in."
Penguins (Expected) LineupsForwards: Kunitz-Staal-Dupuis, Sullivan-Malkin-Neal, Cooke-Park-Asham, Jeffrey-Vitale-Adams
Defensemen: Martin-Letang, Orpik-Engelland, Niskanen-Lovejoy
Goaltenders: Fleury, Johnson
Expected Scratches: Michalek
Islanders forward John Tavares: “We talk about getting to that next level, being a better team and getting into the playoffs. It’s great that we played well (Tuesday). It’s all positive, but at the same time, good teams find ways to win and that’s what Pittsburgh did against us. They may not have played their best game or been as sharp as they would have liked, but they still found a way to win.”
“That’s where we have to dig deep, find that will and that competitiveness to overcome some of those things, whether it’s a hot goaltender, you’re not getting calls or pucks aren’t bouncing your way. That’s what we have to learn and understand that it’s going to take more than what we expect sometimes to win hockey games.”