POST-MORNING SKATE BUZZ
The New York Islanders have been in a free fall like the Penguins, but the NHL is all about matchups. The Penguins when healthy struggled mightily in matching up with the Islanders speed, depth and puck possession ability.
At the forefront of the Penguins issues right now is the inability to get the puck up to their forwards. It’s been many players, Ben Lovejoy among them in the Penguins blatantly throwing the puck around the boards without being patient and looking for a proper outlet pass. It was a primary issue for the Penguins vs Ottawa.
How the Penguins find a way to possess the puck vs the Islanders in a good way to create consistent offense tonight will be a tall order.
“What we got caught doing last game [vs Ottawa] is we started chipping every puck [out] and they [Ottawa] got momentum because they got to every puck,” winger David Perron said of the Penguins not being smart with the puck.
In the previous three matchups, all Islander wins, at even strength the Islanders had a 173 to 131 shot attempt advantage. Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta were all in the lineup together for two of the three games, when the Islanders had a 120 to 90 shot attempt advantage at ES.
How the Penguins defensemen tonight handle New York’s speed and puck hound ability on the forecheck will be a key area to watch.
“[They’re] great off the rush, just a lot of skill on every line,” Daniel Winnik said of the Islanders.
Pittsburgh will dress Paul Martin, Ian Cole, Rob Scuderi, Ben Lovejoy and Taylor Chorney.
“We’ve had experience in the last three-to-four weeks with this kind of situation,” Mike Johnston said on playing with five defensemen again.
Against a fast Senators team that comes at you, Chorney was over-matched Tuesday night and Ben Lovejoy has been a disaster in playing at an AHL level for more than two weeks now.
As much as the Islanders have struggled, the Penguins will need to play a near perfect game to win tonight and win the special teams battle because of the issues the Islanders can cause them at even strength to go with being shorthanded on the blueline tonight.
“It’s going to be another playoff type game for us tonight,” Winnik said. “We gotta play our game and do what we have to do, win a hockey game.”
NIELSEN, MARTIN OUT FOR ISLES, HALAK IN NET
For the Islanders, they will be shorthanded a bit upfront with Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen not playing tonight. Martin is often a handful for the Penguins to contain down low and in around the net-front area.
Former Penguin Tyler Kennedy will draw back in the lineup for New York. Kennedy has 2 goals and 4 points in 11 games with the Islanders.
The goaltending matchup tonight will be Marc Andre Fleury vs Jaroslav Halak.
WILL EHRHOFF PUSH TO PLAY VS BUFFALO IF PENGUINS LOSE TONIGHT?
Christian Ehrhoff has again been ruled out for tonight’s game but a source says Ehrhoff may push himself to play tomorrow night vs Buffalo if the Penguins were to lose tonight.
Ehrhoff is still not practicing with the team but has been skating for a few weeks and taking contact from Mike Kadar.
Daniel Winnik – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – David Perron
Nick Spaling – Brandon Sutter – Steve Downie
Beau Bennett – Max Lapierre – Blake Comeau
Paul Martin – Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi – Ian Cole
Marc Andre Fleury