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