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Islanders vs. Penguins Preview/Game Thread: Jaroslav Halak starts critical back-to-back

The prodigal goalie rejoins for the Isles’ three-in-four weekend

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Come on, boys.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jaroslav Halak is back.

The New York Islanders goalie who was on the trade market since at least last summer and who’s been in the AHL for all of 2017 will start his first NHL game in almost three months as the Islanders visit Pittsburgh.

It’s part of a massive -- they’re all massive here on out — weekend in the Islanders’ playoff wild card push.

The stakes are well known and dramatic: A win tonight pulls the Isles into a points tie for the second wild card spot with the Boston Bruins, who have played two more games and would hold the regulation/OT win tie-breaker by two wins.

As luck would have it, the Bruins await the Islanders’ return to New York for a suddenly very major contest on Saturday in Brooklyn.

Not that they should look ahead, but a busy weekend is punctuated by a Monday night meeting with the Nashville Predators, who are involved in a positioning race of their own in the West.

The Penguins, meanwhile, are in a battle for first overall to get to play whoever wins the second wild card spot. In that race they are two points behind the Washington Capitals entering tonight.

Lineup News

Halak’s start is the headliner here. Arguably he gets the less important game of the back-to-back, with Thomas Greiss expected to start Saturday against the Bruins.

Alan Quine slots back into the lineup after Ryan Strome’s injury, a broken wrist that did not require surgery but should have him out three to six weeks, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday.

The defense remains the same from last game, a big third-period win over the Rangers, meaning Dennis Seidenberg is the healthy scratch.

For the Idiots

Oh look, Joshua Ho-Sang is playing his first game in Pittsburgh, where some local fans (or just children on Twitter? I don’t know) are wounded that he has the nerve to wear a number he’s worn since at least age 15, a number that’s never been retired leaguewide (frankly, NO numbers should be retired leaguewide, but that’s another conversation...).

So what’s the young level-headed man had to say about it?

On reaction overall, via CarterHud:

“I think events like [this, a fundraiser for cancer victims] kind of show how important the number 66 is. You get to take a look at a boy who's been battling cancer, and you think he cares about the number 66? Not really. I think that at the end of the day there's a lot of bigger things going on in the world. I think it's important to focus on those things, rather than the number.”

On what to expect at [Paint or Points Per Game or something Arena] in Pittsburgh, via Newsday:

“Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.

“I think it’s everyone outside of Pittsburgh that should kind of get over it. But if they want to hate me for my career, they’re welcome to. I have no bad blood with them; they can have whatever they want with me.”

Oh, and what about the player who wore 66 in Pittsburgh, the one Ho-Sang called more dynamic than Gretzky? Via the Post-Gazette:

“It’s just a number. Number 4 and number 9 were worn by great players (Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, respectively), and they are not retired forever. Players can choose whatever number they want.”

That last story has much more with Ho-Sang talking about what Mario Lemieux did for cancer victims, by the way, as well as the background that has shaped his own world view.

Moving on then...


Tonight’s TV coverage is on MSG+, with radio on AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, and 103.9FM - LI News.

For Penguins coverage you can visit Pensburgh, where they seem to be shrugging about the whole #66 non-issue.

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by gametime, which is 7 p.m. EDT.