The 4-0 New York Islanders, a team projected to be a serious threat to the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division, look to start 5-0 for the first time.
This is a team that significantly upgraded in all phases, notably on the backend and in goal. “With Leddy and Boychuk, and obviously Halak in net makes a big difference,” Kris Letang said of an improved Islanders team. “We know they’re really skilled upfront and that’s their strength.”
Halak will start in goal for the Islanders with Marc Andre Fleury making his fourth consecutive start.
“I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Chris Kunitz said of the Islanders. “They have a new goalie, a couple new defensemen, lot of guys that may have been younger, but are now veteran players that are really coming into their own and dominating their team. They’ve been playing with the puck a lot, playing with speed…. Really tough matchup tonight.”
The Penguins are not likely to have any lineup changes but there will be changes on the bottom-2 lines.
Pascal Dupuis skated again today and was a full participant in the morning skate. Dupuis is likely to play, though, a decision won’t be made until closer to game time.
“It’s still a decision we have to make this afternoon with the coach and the trainers to see if I’ll be ready to go tonight,” Dupuis said after the morning skate, indicating he feels much better.
The Dupuis – Sutter – Malkin line has accounted for 2 even strength goals through three games and have been a strong possession line with a 58.8 CF%.
The Penguins this morning, flipped flopped their third and fourth line centers with Nick Spaling moving up to the third line with Steve Downie and Blake Comeau.
Goc has not provided much offense and the third line of Comeau – Goc – Downie have a CF% of 48.8, on the ice for 14 Shot Attempts For and 15 Shot Attempts Against through three games.
Spaling has been a surprisingly strong possession player through three games. Unlikely to hold up and in limited ice time, the Penguins fourth line of Zach Sill, Spaling and Craig Adams have been on the ice for 15 Shot Attempts For and just 5 Shot Attempts Against.
JOHNSTON LIKES PAIRING OF OLLI MAATTA – KRIS LETANG
Olli Maatta and Kris Letang have been excellent together through two games with no even strength goals against and a 61.7 CF%. 5 v 5, Maatta and Letang have been on the ice together for 47 shot attempts and just 23 against.
The ability of both to exit the zone has been a big factor in their success together.
“Olli Maatta and Kris Letang, both of them can jump into the play but I think the biggest strength they have is getting out of their own zone,” Mike Johnston said following the morning skate.
While the Penguins plan all along has been for Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff to play together, Maatta has shown he can fit with anybody. Against Anaheim on opening night, Maatta was paired with Paul Martin and the pairing was on the ice for 16 Shot Attempts and just 7 Against.
5 v 5, Martin’s puck possession numbers have dipped the last two games when paired with Christian Ehrhoff.
— The Penguins reasoning to have Scott Harrington still up with the team remains a head scratcher when he is missing valuable playing time in Wilkes Barre. He will be a healthy scratch again tonight.
— Mike Johnston on the Islanders top line: “Thing is you recognize their tendencies and be aware of how they play.” The Penguins plan to play Olli Maatta and Kris Letang against John Tavares.