Penguins-Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders are one of the only teams to hold Pittsburgh relatively in check over the past three-plus weeks, and they still couldn't top the red-hot Penguins in the latest matchup.

The Islanders have won the past three home games in the series and will try to keep that streak going while spoiling Pittsburgh's attempt to clinch a playoff spot Saturday afternoon.

The Penguins (44-25-8) have scored 42 goals while winning 10 of 11 and failed to score three in just two games in that stretch. Chris Kunitz tallied their only goal in regulation in a home matchup with the Islanders on March 15, but Pittsburgh came away with a 2-1 shootout victory.

That's also the only time the Penguins have earned two points in the last eight games in which they have scored two goals or fewer. That span includes a 2-1 loss in Brooklyn on March 8.

Pittsburgh has won 17 in a row when tallying at least three goals and earned their fourth consecutive overall victory Thursday by topping Nashville 5-2. Phil Kessel found the net twice, giving him four goals and five assists during the win streak, and Sidney Crosby registered his 24th point in 17 games.

"I think we always believed in here," Kessel said. "We always knew we had a good squad. We just kept on battling and proved it."

The Penguins' surge, which includes a season high-tying five consecutive road wins, has moved them to the brink of a 10th straight postseason appearance. They can secure that with a victory or a Detroit regulation loss.

They can also get there if they earn one point, and the Red Wings lose in overtime or go to a shootout Saturday night in Toronto.

Pittsburgh swept the season series against Detroit, giving it the second tiebreaker.

The Islanders (42-25-9) can move to the verge of a postseason berth with a season high-tying fourth consecutive win Saturday and a regulation defeat by the Red Wings.

New York earned its 37th non-shootout win, same as Detroit, by edging Columbus 4-3 on Thursday. After his team blew an early two-goal lead, Anders Lee provided the tiebreaking power-play score with 14:37 remaining and boosted the Islanders to 9-1-1 in their last 11 home games.

"It was a gut-check win against a good team," coach Jack Capuano said. "They played hard, they came at us hard. We're finding ways here right now. It's about work ethic and the will to compete."

The Islanders are four points ahead of Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's top wild-card spot and two behind the New York Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers play Ottawa on Saturday afternoon and the Rangers face Buffalo at night.

The Islanders' last four victories have come against teams out of playoff position, and the past three by one goal or a shootout. They have lost five straight to opponents that are currently postseason-bound.

Pittsburgh hasn't won six straight on the road since a franchise record-tying, seven-game run in 2010-11.

Crosby has four goals and four assists in his last five games against the Islanders. New York captain John Tavares, who scored twice against Columbus, has four goals and three assists in his past six matchups with Pittsburgh.

Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic is out for the rest of the regular season because of a lower-body injury. Mikhail Grabovski (upper body) and goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin) are also sidelined.

Marek Zidlicky will likely return from an upper-body injury to take Hamonic's spot on the roster.

Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta remains week to week with a lower-body ailment.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.