Penguins-Islanders Preview

With an Atlantic Division title no longer a possibility and

fourth place in the Eastern Conference secured, the Pittsburgh

Penguins can treat their final regular-season game as a tune-up for

the playoffs.

Sidney Crosby may have a little more incentive than the rest of

his teammates.

Crosby tries again for his first 50-goal season Saturday against

one of his favorite opponents as the Penguins visit the New York

Islanders.

Pittsburgh (46-28-7) entered Saturday tied with New Jersey atop

the Atlantic, but any chance the Penguins had at a division title

ended with a 1-0 loss at Atlanta.

“It’s disappointing,” Crosby said. “We hoped to win and get

second place. We’ll have to play a good game (Sunday) and start

focusing on the playoffs.”

A third straight road defeat left Pittsburgh locked into fourth

in the East, setting up a first-round meeting with Ottawa. The

Penguins, shut out for the second time in five games, need one

point to reach 100 for the third time in four seasons.

Getting at least a point against the Islanders (34-37-10) hasn’t

presented much of a problem for Pittsburgh, which is 10-1-1 in the

last 12 meetings, losing 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 27. The

Penguins are 22-8-5 versus the Islanders since drafting Crosby

prior to the 2005-06 season.

Crosby was held without a goal for the sixth straight road game

and remained stuck on 49. He has four goals and eight assists in

five games this season against the Islanders and 56 points in 30

career matchups, tied with Philadelphia for his most against any

opponent.

The Pittsburgh captain could still lead the league in goals. He

trails Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos by

one with one game left for each.

Crosby isn’t the only Penguin that has enjoyed success against

New York. Evgeni Malkin has six goals against the Islanders this

season, and 12 goals and eight assists during a 12-game point

streak in the series.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who could be rested instead of playing for

the third time in four days, is 6-0-1 with a 1.68 goals-against

average in his last seven starts against New York. Brent Johnson

has split a pair of starts this season versus the Islanders.

Penguins forward Matt Cooke may miss this game after he took two

hard punches to the face from Atlanta rookie Evander Kane on

Saturday. Medical personnel brought a stretcher onto the ice as

Cooke laid on his back, seemingly unable to sit up, but the 12-year

veteran soon insisted he was strong enough to skate off the ice and

didn’t return.

“He left the ice saying he was fine and he continues to be that

way now,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “He obviously will go through a

battery of (concussion) tests.”

After finishing with a league-worst 61 points last season, the

Islanders have made strides and could see a 19-point improvement

with one more victory.

A dismal 7-15-2 record against Atlantic foes is a major reason

whey they will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

The Islanders were overwhelmed by a division opponent for the

second straight game Saturday, losing 7-1 at New Jersey two nights

after a 7-3 loss in Pittsburgh.

Matt Moulson was the lone bright spot for New York, scoring his

team-leading 29th goal. A goal in this game would make him the

first Islander with 30 since Jason Blake had 40 in 2006-07.