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.