Islanders-Penguins Preview

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 expected to make his debut,

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 even with Iginla finally on the ice. Immigration issues

had kept him from joining the club, but the team reported late

Friday that his petition had been approved.

Pittsburgh’s official Twitter account said the six-time All-Star

will be in uniform and play in this game, reportedly on a line with

Malkin and James Neal.

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.