New York Islanders Vs Pittsburgh Penguins : Pregame Report


Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report

Tonight, the New York Islanders (8-15-4, 20 points) take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-1, 37 points) in Game 28 of the 2013-14 NHL Regular Season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
When: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 :  7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: MSG+ (HD) – Howie Rose, Butch Goring
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRCN – Chris King

Tickets: NY Islanders tickets

Talk about two teams going in opposite directions and you have the backdrop for tonight’s game at the Nassau Coliseum.

The Pittsburgh Penguins return to Long Island for the first time since last years opening round playoff series coming off a 9-5-1 November and possessing three of the hottest forwards in the National Hockey League at the current time.

On the other end of the spectrum sit the New York Islanders, 4-10-1 in their November schedule and currently winless in their past six games. The Islanders have not won since November 16 in a shoot-out over Detroit and have not won a game in regulation time since November 12 against Nashville. Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey, two forwards who were counted on heavily to provide secondary scoring, have failed to produce anything over the past month. In fact, Grabner has now gone 26 games without even a single goal.

If there is anything to be taken on a positive note for the Islanders, they played perhaps their best game in three weeks in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. When you are struggling as bad as this team is, both on the ice and in the locker room, baby steps are what is needed. With a fanbase seemingly screaming for anyone and everyone to take the fall, it becomes even more difficult to maintain positivity and optimism on the ice.

The assumption is that the word around the team right now is that general manager Garth Snow does not want to walk on almost broken ice by letting go of current head coach Jack Capuano. With the team so fragile the effect could be even more disastrous than just riding out this current stretch of bad play.

On the other end of the spectrum, a seemingly impossible road trip looms that could pretty much eliminate the Islanders from playoff contention before we even reach Christmas. It is almost a perfect storm of ‘can’t win’ situations for both Snow and Capuano, as you would think something has to give sooner than later.

For Pittsburgh, they come in riding a three game winning streak and are 1-1-0 this season against the Islanders, both games ending in identical 4-3 scores at Consol Energy Center. Is this the night that head coach Dan Blysma decides to re-insert Marc-Andre Fleury? Or does New York again see backup Jeff Zatkoff? Fleury has not played against the Islanders since that disastrous (for him) playoff series last spring. {EDITORS NOTE : Fleury has been announced as the starting goaltender for tonight}

The Penguins also boast the top two scorers in the league currently with Sidney Crosby (36 points) and Evgeni Malkin (35 points) as well as James Neal, who has scored 6-3-9 in his last 5 games.

Penguins forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) returned to practice Monday. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) told reporters Saturday he feels great and is not experiencing any health issues, but he is still taking medication and remains out indefinitely. Rob Scuderi (broken ankle), Beau Bennett (wrist/hand surgery), Tanner Glass (broken hand) and Paul Martin (fractured tibia) are on injured reserve.

Pittsburgh is 6th in goals per game, 9th in goals against, 1st on the power play and 8th on the penalty kill. The Islanders are 18th, 29th, 21st and 30th respectively.

Can emotion and intensity carry the Islanders to a win they so sorely need before heading on the road? In a game they are seemingly so outmatched in? They and head coach Capuano better hope so.

What They’re Saying

  •  “I’d love to see them both at the top at the end of the year,” coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins’ official website. “(Malkin) did it a lot of ways tonight. … His effort has been pretty consistent for a long stretch of games here. Pretty remarkable night in the duty he did get.” [link]
  • “Guys worked hard tonight,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought they were focused and this was a step in the right direction. It came down to special teams. It’s just very frustrating that it had to end this way.” [link]
  • “We have to believe in one another and stick with it,” Capuano said. [link]
  • “He gave us a chance. Any time you have a guy in there that battles and gives you a chance to win the game, that’s what you want as a staff. I thought he did that…Anders played well.” – head coach Jack Capuano. [link]

Quick Hitters

  • Penguins are plus GF/GA in every period this season (7,4,10). Isles are -6, flat, -14.
  • New York has already lost 60 man games to injury, after only 81 in lockout shortened 2013.
  • All time, New York has the slight edge in the season series, 99-97-33
  • John Tavares is tied for fifth in the NHL scoring race with 30 points (11g/19a). He is six points off the league lead (Crosby). Tavares has not gone pointless in consecutive games this season.
  • The Isles are 8-2-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-13-2 when they do not.
  • The Islanders are 92-98-31 under Head Coach Jack Capuano. He ranks second on the Islanders all-time list in both games coached (222) and wins (92), behind Al Arbour (1,500 coached, 740 wins).
  • Pittsburgh is 17-5-1 in its last 23 overall meetings against the Islanders.
  • The Penguins have scored three or more goals in eight of their last 10 contests entering tonight. During that stretch they have scored an NHL-best 34 goals for an average of 3.4 per game dating back to Nov. 15.

Projected Lineup

26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
96 Bouchard – 16 Regin – 15 Clutterbuck
17 Martin – 53 Cizikas – 13 McDonald

47 MacDonald – 3 Hamonic
14 Hickey – 44 deHaan
55 Ness – 7 Carkner

45 Nilsson
60 Poulin

Scratches : 4 Martinek, 29 Nelson, 36 Boulton
Injured Reserve : 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov, 37 Strait

Rich Dias (@RDNHL) is covering the game for Eyes on Isles from the press box. Follow him for updates throughout the contest.