Game Preview: NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 04/17/2024

With the Eastern Conference playoff picture all set, the Islanders and Penguins will play out the string on the regular season tonight at UBS Arena.
Noah Dobson's health status is arguably the most important topic on the mind of the NY Islanders and their fans tonight.
Noah Dobson's health status is arguably the most important topic on the mind of the NY Islanders and their fans tonight. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders (38-27-16) host the Pittsburgh Penguins (38-31-12) tonight at UBS Arena in the final game of the 2023-2024 regular season for both teams. The Islanders will finish third place in the Metro division and face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the postseason. Meanwhile, the Penguins will miss the postseason for the second straight season after a spirited late-season run brought them back into contention. Unfortunately for them, that run ended last night, when the Washington Capitals clinched the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

We will not know the full Islanders lineup until the pregame skate, but it appears Mathew Barzal and Pierre Engvall will both get tonight off to rest before the postseason begins. The Islanders hope above all that everybody stays healthy tonight, and that there are no new injury problems stemming from an irrelevant Game 82.

LAST GAME

The Islanders defeated the New Jersey Devils by the score of 4-1 this weekend. In doing so, they clinched their playoff spot, rendering tonight's game meaningless outside of a few lingering questions before the playoffs. Semyon Varlamov was terrific in goal again, and has made himself the likely Game One starter in net this weekend in Carolina. Goals were scored by JG Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, Brock Nelson, and Kyle MacLean. Arguably the most promising outcome from this game was the performance of the Isles' special teams units. If the Islanders are going to have any prayer of making a run in the playoffs, their penalty kill will have to perform competently and keep them in games.

HISTORICAL MATCHUP

The Islanders and Penguins have a very storied history. From fierce playoff battles to wild fight nights, it's as if these teams have seen it all. Thus, a meaningless game at the end of the season is a bit anticlimactic, particularly for the Penguins, who are going home early for a second season in a row. This season, the Islanders are 1-2 against the Penguins, with the two losses coming in December and representing one of the low points of this season.

But remembering recent playoff history between the Isles and Pens should give Isles fans confidence heading into the postseason. Let's hope the Isles can repeat this outcome next week!

PLAYERS TO WATCH

NYI: Noah Dobson and Ilya Sorokin- I am cheating in this column, but these players represent the two biggest questions facing the Islanders tonight and heading into the weekend: the health status of Noah Dobson, and who will be the starting goaltender? Dobson, who had a breakout season as one of the league's best defensemen, has missed the last two games with an injury, and his availability against Carolina is paramount to the Isles' chances of an upset. Fortunately, Dobson was skating this morning, and is expected to be available for the Isles in the playoffs. As for Sorokin, he will be in the lineup tonight, but Varlamov is largely expected to start the first game of the postseason for the Islanders. But the playoffs are a long road, so it is likely both goaltenders will be needed at some point if the Isles are to make a run.

PIT: Sidney Crosby- The Penguins are missing the playoffs for the second straight season as Sidney Crosby's career winds down. When Kyle Dubas took the reins in Pittsburgh, his goal was to compete through the end of Crosby's career. That is looking less likely by the day. The Penguins are sure to have an interesting offseason ahead, as it appears they are bound to be in the "mushy middle" of the Eastern Conference for the next few seasons- never contending, but having too much talent to bottom out. Crosby, an Islanders-killer for his career, looks to finish another strong season on a high note tonight at UBS Arena.

Ilya Sorokin, Semyon Varlamov
Will Ilya Sorokin or Semyon Varlamov start in goal for game one of the playoffs in Carolina this weekend? / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

PROJECTED LINES

PIT

Drew O'Connor- Sidney Crosby- Bryan Rust

Michael Bunting- Evgeni Malkin- Rickard Rakell

Reilly Smith- Lars Eller- Valtteri Puustinen

Jansen Harkins- Jeff Carter- Jesse Puljujarvi

Pierre-Olivier Joseph- Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson- Erik Karlsson

Ryan Shea- Jack St. Ivany

Alex Nedeljkovic

Tristan Jarry

NYI

Casey Cizikas- Bo Horvat- Oliver Wahlstrom

Simon Holmstrom- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri

Anders Lee- JG Pageau- Hudson Fasching

Matt Martin- Kyle MacLean- Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech- Ryan Pulock

Alexander Romanov- Robert Bortuzzo

Mike Reilly- Samuel Bolduc

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

Line combinations courtesy of Daily Faceoff.