Penguins-Islanders Preview

There’s a chance that Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin

could end his six-game absence Friday night. While the Penguins

would undoubtedly love to have Malkin back on the ice, they’ve

already shown they can do just fine without him.

With or without Malkin, the Penguins will try to match the

longest win streak in the NHL this season at 11 games when they

visit the New York Islanders.

Pittsburgh (23-8-0) has continued to roll despite Malkin’s

shoulder injury, playing especially well on defense without the

reigning league MVP. The Penguins have allowed six goals in their

last six games.

They extended their run Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over

Washington. Matt Niskanen’s tiebreaking goal in the third period

made the Penguins the first team with double-digit win streaks in

three consecutive seasons.

“The importance is probably greater just because of a shortened

season, but I think the good thing for us is that we’re playing so

many games and I don’t think anyone is thinking a whole lot about

it, we’re just going out there and playing the way that we need

to,” captain Sidney Crosby said.

Malkin has resumed practicing, but neither he nor coach Dan

Bylsma would give a definitive answer on when he might return.

“Every day it’s better, but I’m not skating at 100 percent. It’s

probably soon. It’s tough to say,” Malkin said Wednesday. “I’m

close to playing. I’ll try to play Friday, but it’s hard to say

now. We’ll see.”

Defenseman Kris Letang, second on the team with 25 assists, is

day-to-day with a lower-body injury after sitting out against the

Capitals.

The Penguins are looking for their third straight win over the

Islanders following three straight losses in the series. Pittsburgh

has outscored New York 10-3 in the past two meetings, winning 4-2

in its most recent trip to Long Island on Feb. 5.

Chris Kunitz recorded a hat trick and two assists and Crosby

matched a career high with five assists in a 6-1 home win over the

Islanders on March 10, the day after Malkin was hurt in a shootout

win in Toronto.

The Penguins have won four of their last five visits to Nassau

Coliseum and will face a team coming off back-to-back losses, both

at home. The Islanders have been outscored 10-5 in those defeats

after going 5-1-1 in their first seven games this month.

New York (13-14-3) has given up seven of those 10 goals in the

third period, allowing Montreal to score three times in the final

20 minutes of a 5-2 defeat Thursday.

“We got away from our game after playing a good first 40

minutes,” center John Tavares said. “We have to understand that we

can’t come off the gas pedal in the third period.”

The Penguins are seeking to match Chicago’s 11-game win streak

from Feb. 15-March 6, and they’re looking to win five straight road

games for the first time since a seven-game run Nov. 6-Dec. 11,

2010.

The Islanders are an NHL-worst 5-10-2 at home.