The New York Islanders have won seven of eight after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they’ve been nowhere near as effective when hosting them recently.
The Islanders attempt to begin changing that and move into a tie with the Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division by sweeping this home-and-home set Saturday night.
New York (13-6-0) has followed a 2-5-0 stretch by scoring 25 goals during a 7-1-0 surge, including Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory at Pittsburgh (13-3-2).
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"This has been one of our biggest rivals over the last few years, so you always get up for these games," left wing Matt Martin said. "They’re the team we’re chasing in the standings right now."
The Islanders’ recent hot streak has put them two points behind the Penguins for the division lead. However, they’re 1-5-2 in the last eight regular-season meetings at Nassau Coliseum while giving up 32 goals. They lost 6-4 in the most recent matchup there Jan. 23.
"We’re going to have to play better (Saturday) night if we’re going to have a chance to win the game," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "They’re a pretty good hockey club."
Silencing Sidney Crosby again could go a long way in helping the Islanders avoid a fifth straight home loss to Pittsburgh. The reigning Hart Trophy winner didn’t even muster a shot while failing to generate a point Friday.
"We just didn’t play a full 60 minutes and didn’t really deserve to win," Crosby said.
His 26 points rank second in the NHL, one back of Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, even though Crosby has just two in the past five games. The Penguins have lost four of six when he doesn’t have a point, and both wins came in shootouts.
A switch to the Coliseum may spark Crosby, who has 40 points in 24 career games at Long Island, including the playoffs. He had three goals and two assists in two visits last season.
Patric Hornqvist had two points Friday, including his team-leading 10th goal midway through the third period that forced overtime. He’s netted seven in his past six games against New York, including three goals along with two assists in two meetings this season.
New York could use some production from John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson, who were held off the scoresheet Friday and combined to be a minus-4. All three share the team lead with 18 points.
Nelson is the unlikely leader with nine goals after netting 14 as a rookie last season. The center has seven points in the last four home games.
Okposo scored the shootout winner Friday but has gone seven straight games without a goal, one shy of his longest drought from last season.
Tavares hasn’t scored in his last 10 regular-season matchups with the Penguins.