Penguins

Game 51 Preview: Penguins Vs. Islanders

By: Casey Shea
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will go on the road to take on the New York Islanders in a Metropolitan Division battle tonight.

Last night, the Penguins emphatically got back in the win column with a 5-1 drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens.

Jussi Jokinen scored two goals, while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Taylor Pyatt also lit the lamp for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves in the contest.

Tensions started to boil over in the third period, which nearly led to a goalie fight between Fleury and Peter Budaj. However, the referees took control of the situation and never allowed the two goaltenders to engage.

Given some of the recent events in the league, which led to games getting out of control (see Vancouver/Calgary line brawl, or Ray Emery assaulting Braden Holtby), this was refreshing to see.

Personally, I always like a good goalie fight. However, Fleury is too important to this team to be risking injury to drop the gloves. While Jeff Zatkoff has done an absolutely admirable job in the backup role this season and with Tomas Vokoun’s future still up in the air, Fleury needs to stay between the pipes.

Anyway, the Penguins’ attention now shifts to the New York Islanders for this evening’s division matchup.

New York (21-24-7) enters tonight’s game looking to crawl out of the Metropolitan Division basement. They are currently just two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and three points behind the Washington Capitals.

While the first half of the season was rough, the Islanders are playing better hockey of late. They have won two in a row and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.

One major factor in their recent success is the play of their captain, John Tavares. This month alone, Tavares has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 11 games. He has also surged to second in the NHL scoring race with 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists).

In goal, Kevin Poulin (11-14-0, 3.10 GAA, .896 save percentage) has assumed the starting job while Evgeni Nabokov is on injured reserve with a leg injury.

Poulin has won seven of his last nine starts, including a 30 save performance in a 5-3 win over the Rangers Tuesday night.

Against the Penguins, Poulin is 0-2 with a 2.60 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

For Pittsburgh, Crosby (28 goals, 43 assists) added to his league-leading point total with a pretty deflection goal last night against Montreal. He now leads Tavares by seven points in the NHL scoring race.

Historically speaking, Crosby has torched the Islanders in his career. In 44 games, Crosby has racked up 24 goals and 56 assists with six goals and 26 assists coming on the power play.

With Fleury getting the nod last night, it would appear likely that Zatkoff (7-2-1, 2.67 GAA, .906 save percentage) will face the Islanders for a third time this season.

In their most recent meeting on Nov. 22, Zatkoff stopped 32 shots in a 4-3 win over the Islanders.

Season Series (Home Team In Bold)

Oct. 25, 2013 – Islanders 4, Penguins 3

Nov. 22, 2013 – Islanders 3, Penguins 4

Dec. 3, 2013 – Penguins 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and you can watch the game on Root Sports or NBC Sports Network.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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