New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Notes: Stay out of the box, please.


Poul-in, Zatk-off.

The New York Islanders have won 10 of their last 13 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won 35 of their first 50. Neither is completely sustainable, but I know which one I'd bet on if forced. The Pens have 31 regulation or OT wins, to the Isles' 15. (And man, just a few weeks ago that total was much uglier.)

In any case, it's as good a time as any for the Islanders to face the conference-leading Penguins, who are coming off a 5-1 drubbing of the Canadiens last night in Pittsburgh and are welcome to punt their way through this one, pretty please.

The Islanders are coming off a nice late win over their rivals at the Garden -- as well as a fun turn on "NHL Revealed" last night -- so nothing could ice that cake like another win over a bitter Patrick Atlantic Metro foe, also on the national NBC Sports broadcast in the U.S.

Penguins (35-13-2, 1st/East) @ Islanders (21-24-7, 8th/Metro)
7:30 p.m. EST | NBCS/TSN2 | WRHU/WRCN
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Flighty and Foul: PensBurgh

The assumption is Jeff Zatkoff will get the start on this end of the back-to-back, with Kevin Poulin starting at the opposite end.

The Isles are also keeping Peter Regin and Radek Martinek in the lineup. On the latter note, Lubomir Visnovsky took off the non-contact jersey, so his return is getting ever closer. Finally.

The Penguins are in that rarified position of possessing the league's most lethal power play (24.2%) and its most stingy penalty kill (87.9%). Yikes. That's a good night to not dress penalty-maker Matt Carkner, particularly given the Islanders' 30th-ranked PK (76%).

In which Jack Capuano talks about the goaltending:

Our young players are playing better and playing with more confidence right now. It starts at the back end between the pipes and I think our goalies have played better and are giving us a chance to win games.

Are the Islanders actually playing better, or just finally getting some goaltending? Maybe a little bit of A, a little bit of B, and -- oh, hell, goaltending is part of the game too. As a team, they've been winning. More of their shots have been going in, fewer of their shots against have been staying out. It's nice.

Besides, John Tavares says so. You wouldn't cross John Tavares, would you?

"During the last month and a half we've done a much better job in all three zones and battling through adversity when it's been there," said captain John Tavares, who's second in the scoring race with 62 points, seven behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. "Everyone is playing as a unit out there, from our goaltender out to our forwards, you can just tell that in all three zones the execution level is much better."

All of that could change tonight, but ... hey, maybe not!

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Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here.

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