Nov 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (top) scores the game winning goal past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the shootout at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Islanders won 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a thrilling 3-0 victory against their in-state rival New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Islanders will play yet another crucial division game when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town on Friday night.
In what will continue to be a huge week for the Islanders, they face off against a Penguins’ team that has been in a constant battle with the Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Hopefully, the momentum will carry over from Madison Square Garden, where the Islanders beat the Rangers to cap off a successful 5-2-road trip.
Expect to see the star of Tuesday night’s game Jaroslav Halak back in net for the team. Halak, who has been excellent all season for the Islanders, was rewarded Thursday for his superb season with the NHL choosing him to replace Jimmy Howard in the All-Star game due to a groin injury Howard had suffered.
Halak will be joining John Tavares in the game and will also be the first Islanders goaltender since Rick Dipietro to represent the team in the All-Star Game since 2007.
Also, the penalty-kill and the power play,’ which have been the Islanders Achilles heel all season, have been better as of late. Especially against a lethal Penguins offense, the Islanders will need to win the special teams battle in order to have a chance to win this game.
The team will certainly need Halak to play at an all-star level with an offensive juggernaut like the Pittsburgh Penguins coming in. Led in points by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins average the 5th most goals in the league. Patrick Hornqvist has also been a nice piece for the Penguins thus far, compiling 29 points in 33 games.
In net for the Penguins will most likely be recently named all-star, Marc-Andre Fleury. Similar to Halak, Fleury was named to the All-Star Game because Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne suffered an injured. Fleury is having a marvelous season, holding a 22-7-4 record with a .926 save percentage. The Islanders are hoping they see the Fleury who struggled in the 2012-2013 playoffs against them, not the Fleury who performs well in the regular season.
This is a crucial game as the teams are just separated by one point in the standings. The Islanders will look to make the series 3-1 against their division rivals, in what should be great atmosphere at the Nassau Coliseum.