Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins At New York Islanders


The Pittsburgh Penguins (26-10-6) head into New York to take on their Metropolitan division rivals, the Islanders (29-13-1).  New York just finished up a seven game road trip and now faces the Penguins after just dispatching fellow division rival the New York Rangers in a shutout 3-0.

Presently the Islanders lead the Metropolitan division by one point and if the Pittsburgh Penguins win tonight, they can reclaim their rightful spot atop the division. As healthy bodies have returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins, their play continues to improve. After beating a playoff caliber team in the Montreal Canadians 2-1, the Penguins unleashed their arsenal of offensive weapons against the Minnesota Wild in their 7-2 win.

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One of the biggest surprises this season has been the New York Islanders. They are scoring 2.98 goals per game and only allowing 2.67 goals per game. While the Penguins matchup similarly scoring 3.02 goals per game and allowing 2.31 goals per game. Tonight will be a fast, loud and physical game by both teams.

Rumor is that recent callup Scott Harrington will start and usual starter Robert Bortuzzo will be the healthy scratch. This is a very curious move as it has been reported that fellow defender Simon Despres is playing through an injury. If this is true, Bortuzzo should play and Despres should rest. The playoffs are where it counts and players should take time off if they need it during the regular season.

In recent news both of tonight’s starting goaltenders were named to the All-Star game as injury replacements. Marc-Andre Fleury and Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak have had great seasons and tonight will be a duel of goaltenders, unless Evgeni Malkin has anything to say about it.

Jan 2, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Malkin has stepped out of Sidney Crosby‘s shadow once again and is in the middle of an MVP caliber season. Through 42 games, the 28 year old Russian center has 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points. Although his totals are still low for his standards, his play has been electric as of late. He has risen from outside the top ten in scoring to second in the league within one month. If he keeps playing like this Malkin will easily be a Hart Trophy candidate and could easily lead the league in scoring. That is why Evgeni Malkin is the key to victory in the game tonight.