Published on January 29th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Penguins Precap 6: New York Islanders
Quick precap today. For better reading check out Slew’s analysis of Matt Niskanen’s injury and the hole it creates in the defensive top-four.
Pittsburgh is 3-2-0 after their first five. Their three wins came against playoff teams in 2012, while their two losses (at a combined score of 9-4) came at the hands of two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference last season.
The Islanders, 2-2-1 after their first five and just a point behind the Penguins in the Atlantic, are a similarly overmatched but high-scoring team that can burn the Penguins in transition like Winnipeg and Toronto were able to do last week.
The key to keeping the Isles (3.6 goals per game, 5th in NHL) in check will be to put forth another 18-man defensive effort as they did Sunday in Ottawa. The task will be made considerably tougher without Niskanen, who was fourth on the team in ice time and had settled comfortably into a top-pairing role alongside Kris Letang.
Simon Despres will get his chance to show he can stick with Letang (with whom he has been paired before) during the 2-4 weeks of Niskanen’s recovery.
Depth will be key in the compressed schedule. Pittsburgh will be forced to find out if they’ve got it on defense, where their prospect pool is gold for the future but questionable at best for this season.
Tuesday Pre-Game Audio
Match-Up to Watch
Pittsburgh’s power play against the Islanders penalty kill. The Isles are third in the league in PK success (94.1 percent) while the Pens’ power play has failed to produce in the last two games after striking five times in its first 13 chances. In the last two games (where the power play has been silenced), the Penguins have scored just three goals total. The top unit was effectively shut down after teams began meeting the Pens at the blue line and pressuring their forwards to be smart with the puck while looking to make dazzling passing plays. They’ll need to generate something against the high-scoring Islanders.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Kennedy– Malkin – Neal
Cooke – Sutter – Glass
Tangradi – Vitale – Adams
Letang – Despres
Orpik – Martin
Engelland – Lovejoy – Bortuzzo
It’s only the second game in Pittsburgh, where the Pens dropped their opener, 5-2, to Toronto last Wednesday. A four-point game in which second (perhaps first) place in the Atlantic is at stake.