No Sidney Crosby? No Evgeni Malkin? Apparently, no problem.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have found ways to win, despite playing without their top-two players, and the rest of the league better take notice. The Penguins have been playing some fantastic hockey since Crosby and Malkin originally went down with injuries, and tonight they run into a team that makes their injury problems seem insignificant: The New York Islanders.
The interesting thing about the Penguins is that whenever they seem to have some sort of streak going, whether it be an individual player or team streak, the New York Islanders always seem to be their Kryptonite:
1) 1975 Playoffs: Pens take 3-0 series lead on the Isles, only to watch New York storm back and win the series.
2) 1993 Playoffs: Pens lose to the Isles in seven games on an OT goal by David Volek. The Penguins had won two Stanley Cups in a row.
3) February 2007: Crosby and Co. hadn't lost in over a month in regulation time, until President's day '07, when Mike Sillinger scored the tie-breaker with 26 seconds left in the 3rd period to give the Isles the win.
4) December 2010: The Isles end Sidney Crosby's 25 game point streak, defeating the Pens 2-1 in a shoot out. Sid was also denied on a shoot out attempt by Isles' goaltender Rick DiPietro.
That being said, the Islanders will have their work cut out for them tonight, having played in Montreal last night, and facing an opponent that is playing very good hockey recently.
Mikko Koskinen will be in net for the Islanders tonight, as per Katie Strang of Newsday.
The Isles will look to build off of the success they had last night against the Habs and will go for consecutive victories, a landmark that has been rather elusive of this team.
The Isles will have to play a tight defensive game, as they did for most of last night's game against Montreal, something that I really believe helped make the difference in Mikko's play last night.
When a goalie (especially a rookie one) knows he's being supported, his nerves are calmer. Koskinen knew he didn't have to do it all by himself, and he was able to get his game going and stay in rhythm.
X-Factor: The Islanders' Power Play needs to be effective tonight, especially because they are facing a team that thrives on the man-advantage. If the Isles win tonight, I say the PP will have a lot to do with it. They also need to stay out of the box. If Pittsburgh gets too many power play opportunities, they can bury the Islanders early.
Having gone 3 for 3 last night, here are my three players to watch for tonight's game:
1) Michael Grabner- Grabner might just occupy the number one spot in my player's to watch for the rest of the season. He's becoming a scoring threat every time he touches the puck, and has been very difficult to contain because of his explosive speed.
He's on a roll lately, showing no signs of slowing down, and is now on a three game goal-scoring streak. Look for him to keep it going tonight.
2) Matt Moulson- look for him to get back to playing his game, something he did not do a fantastic job with last night in Montreal. If the power play is successful, he will probably have a lot to do with that.
He needs to get to the front of the net like he has in past games where he scored his goals. He'll be looking to rebound, and I think he'll do just that.
3) Josh Bailey- Bailey had a great game last night, he just didn't end up on the score sheet. That's going to change tonight.
He was far more aggressive with the puck than we've seen from him in a while, and he had his opportunities last night. He also made some very nice passes against the Canadiens, which were not cashed in. If he keeps it up, the points will come.
I'll recap the game tomorrow. Let's go Islanders!