Islanders-Penguins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 29, 2013
Whether they're adding player after player to an already star-laden roster or notching another victory during their impressive winning streak, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been making headlines for most of March. Sidney Crosby believes none of it will matter in the grand scheme of things, though, unless Pittsburgh hoists the Stanley Cup. With newly acquired Jarome Iginla not yet expected to play, Pittsburgh seeks a franchise-record 12th straight home victory and 15th in a row overall Saturday against the surging New York Islanders in a possible first-round playoff preview. "I think everyone knows there are a ton of teams that have been (considered the favorite) that haven't panned out," Crosby said. "That's not a team that we want to be." The Penguins (27-8-0) surely have enjoyed their lengthy overall winning streak that is now three victories shy of the franchise record set in 1993, but they haven't taken their focus off their ultimate goal. "I don't think anyone is going to remember (the streak) come playoff time," Crosby said after Thursday's 4-0 home win over Winnipeg. The Penguins' star power, though, could trump any upstart hoping to knock them off. Crosby is a favorite to win the Hart Trophy, leading the league with 41 assists and 56 points. Reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin wasted little time contributing in his return from a nine-game absence due to an upper-body injury, netting a goal Thursday. Crosby is joined on the NHL's highest-scoring line by Chris Kunitz, who has a team-high 20 goals along with 24 assists, and Pascal Dupuis, who scored his 16th and 17th goals Thursday. And just for good measure, general manager Ray Shero acquired longtime Dallas captain Brenden Morrow on Sunday, traded for San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray on Monday and got Iginla from Calgary late Wednesday - all without giving up a single player on the current roster. With all the new pieces, developing chemistry becomes an issue, though coach Dan Bylsma likely will keep the Dupuis-Crosby-Kunitz line intact when Iginla is able to sort out reported immigration issues and join the club. Pittsburgh would like Iginla to participate in at least one practice before he sees game action. The six-time All-Star is more likely to make his debut with the team Tuesday against visiting Buffalo. The Penguins first face an Islanders team that has been victimized twice during the winning streak. "Obviously, they're making headlines and they're really going for it," Islanders center John Tavares said. "That's what some teams do this time of year, so we'll be ready for it." New York fell to Pittsburgh 6-1 on March 10 before a 4-2 defeat last Friday, though it is making a push for its first postseason appearance since 2007. The Islanders (16-15-3) have won three straight, moving into a tie with the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Thursday's 4-3 shootout victory at Philadelphia saw them overcome an early two-goal deficit and go on to win despite allowing the tying goal with 30 seconds left in regulation. "It's a good character win," coach Jack Capuano said. "We didn't quit and we'll take the two points." Tavares netted his team-best 21st goal and has scored in three consecutive games for the Islanders, who have won four straight on the road to improve to 10-4-1 in such contests. They're just 6-11-2 at home. Pittsburgh is 14-4-0 at Consol Energy Center, but New York is one of the few teams to win there this season - 4-1 on Jan. 29. Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves in that contest but has a 4.16 goals-against average in losing the other three meetings. He has a 2.13 GAA in 16 career starts versus the Penguins, who likely will counter with Tomas Vokoun in net as Marc-Andre Fleury battles an undisclosed injury. Vokoun is 5-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA over his last seven appearances - five starts - including a pair of wins over the Islanders.
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