Game: New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Odds: Islanders +120, Penguins -133
The New York Islanders travel to the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in a crucial Metropolitan Division matchup. Both teams have been struggling recently and are tied with 63 points in the latest Eastern Conference playoff standings.
The Islanders improved their chances of making the playoffs with a comeback victory over the Penguins at home on Friday, winning 5-4. However, both teams lost on Saturday.
After taking a hard hit early in the first period against Boston, New York’s top-line forward Mathew Barzal exited the game due to injury. The Bruins won the game 6-2. Barzal was not on the Islanders’ injury report, but the severity of his injury is unknown. The Penguins lost their Saturday game to New Jersey 5-2.
The winner of tonight’s game will take a slim lead over the other in the playoff race. The possibility that New York will be without Barzal is not an ideal situation for the Islanders. He is second on the team with 51 points and first with 37 assists, and he has blended in well with the recently acquired forward Bo Horvat.
The Islanders will be without injured forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Josh Bailey tonight. As a result, all eyes are now on Pittsburgh. After their losses on Saturday, both teams must continue to surge ahead.
New York has had trouble getting balanced scoring. The Islanders’ top six forwards are doing most of the scoring. It’s a similar story for the Penguins where the top two lines have carried the offensive load throughout the entirety of this season. The bottom two lines have, for the most part, been content to tag along.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has experimented with a number of different lineups involving his bottom six forwards, but nothing has provided a sustained spark. Pittsburgh’s bottom two lines have been inconsistent all season long. That’s why the Penguins are fighting to hold onto a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh has struggled with slow starts, giving up goals shortly after scoring and giving up goals late in periods. As a result, the team has lost three of its last four games, all of which were decided in regulation. In the three losses, the Pens gave up five, five, and six goals. Still, the Penguins are right in the thick of the postseason race.
The Islanders are 1-4 SU in their last five games. They have struggled mightily on the road. The Islanders have won just one of their last eight road games and they are just 2-6 SU against Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Islanders are 6-2 SU in the last eight games against the Penguins.
The Penguins have won just three of their last eight games and in the five losses they have allowed five or more goals in all but one game. Pittsburgh is just 2-11 SU in its last 13 games against Eastern Conference opponents. Tonight’s game will be the third game in four days for both teams.
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