The Pittsburgh Penguins have been battling maddening bouts of inconsistency, but are still near the top of the Metropolitan Division as they prepare to visit the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. The reigning Stanley Cup champions have endured losses by six, four and three goals over the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
|1||PITTSBURGH||0 (-110)||5.5 (-110)||-150
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, TVAS
PREDICTION: Penguins 3, Islanders 2
NEW YORK — The Pittsburgh Penguins will be eager to get back on the ice Wednesday night after a three-day break. The New York Islanders are hoping a spate of three games in four days can revive their flagging season.
A pair of teams at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference will meet Wednesday night, when the Islanders host the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins at Barclays Center. Each club earned a win in its previous game. New York edged the Calgary Flames 2-1 in overtime on Monday while Pittsburgh beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in the shootout on Saturday.
The three-day break is the third such mini-vacation so far this season for the Penguins (13-6-1), who are four points behind the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division and tied for third overall in the conference, four points free of the second wild card.
And three days off are more than enough as far as Penguins star center Sidney Crosby is concerned, even if he knows fresher legs can help later in the season.
“It’s amazing — after two days you feel it, you definitely feel it,” Crosby said following the Penguins’ practice in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “You’re used to going every day or every other day, at least, especially with the amount of games we’ve played. I think you feel it even more.
“Ultimately I think it was good for us. It’s important and it’s something that hopefully will, down the road, make a big difference for us.”
Down the road looks murky at best for the Islanders (7-10-4), who entered Tuesday tied with the Arizona Coyotes for the fewest points in the NHL. New York is already seven points behind the Devils in the race for the second wild card.
If the Islanders are to begin turning season around, they’ll have to do so against two perennial Eastern Conference powers. After facing the Penguins, New York travels to Washington to face the Capitals on Thursday night.
“Each game is crucial for us — obviously haven’t started the season the way we wanted to,” Islanders center John Tavares said Monday night. “We know Wednesday’s going to be a good test. If you’re going to have success in the playoffs, you’ve got to beat a lot of the top teams.”
Any chance the Islanders have of crawling out of the hole they’ve dug begins with generating more offense. New York has scored three goals or fewer in eight straight games and in 18 of 21 games overall. The Penguins are 8-0-0 when scoring more than three goals.
“We’re going to have to find some offense and that’s the big thing when you play Pittsburgh,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “They can make you look silly, they’ve got a lot of offensive weapons, their power play is dynamic.”
The Islanders may be without defenseman Adam Pelech, who left after the second period Monday night due to an upper body injury. For the Penguins, right winger Patric Hornqvist is expected to return to the lineup after missing the last six games with a concussion.
This is the third of four meetings this season between the Islanders and Penguins. Host Pittsburgh beat New York 4-3 on Oct. 27 before earning a 3-2 overtime win at Barclays Center Nov. 18. The season series is scheduled to conclude in Pittsburgh on March 24.