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
Sidney Crosby may have a little more incentive than the rest of
Crosby tries again for his first 50-goal season Saturday against
one of his favorite opponents as the Penguins visit the New York
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
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
“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.