Key Observations Heading Into Game 19 Between the Islanders vs Penguins

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By: Annie Shean (@JustPuckIt)

Tonight is part 2 of the home and home matchup against the Islanders.
Will the Pens be able to rebound from their defensive flubs?
Or will the Islanders tilt the ice in their favor at home?


REBOUND:
After a 5-4 shootout loss the Penguins are looking to rebound against the Isles just 24 hours later. Even though they were able to recover from a 3-1 deficit, the team made a multitude of defensive mistakes and let the Isles control much of the game.

“We didn’t play a full 60 minutes. Didn’t really deserve to win the game. You can kind of break it down so many different ways, but you know I think at the end of the day we didn’t deserve to win it”

-Sidney Crosby, Postgame Interview 11.21.14

The Penguins will need to rebound from that loss and come into tonight’s game with a fresh start and some fire to their strides. If they can find a way to set the pace of the game and retain control of the ice they will be able to win against this tough Islanders team.

 


THE LINEUP:
With Dupuis out of the lineup, Blake Comeau has been moved up to the first line with Crosby and Kunitz. While he was able to notch a goal, he looked slower and out of place on that line. This could be due to lack of familiarity, but this is certainly something to keep an eye on. The top two lines in general struggled at times against the strong man-on-man coverage by the Islanders,  unable to develop a forecheck throughout parts the game.

This morning the Penguins recalled Jayson Megna from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, so we could see some lineup changes up front. Whether Head Coach Mike Johnson will use him on the first line to give 14/87 some speed up front – or to bolster the fourth line remains to be seen. I do expect us to see Despres back on the third pairing with Scuderi. The experiment of using Bortuzzo as extra muscle against a speedy Islanders team did not go well at all, and he looked extremely out of sync all game. He had a fight and landed big hits, however those hits often took him away from defending developing plays.

Tonight as scheduled Fleury will take a breather, and we will see Tomas Greiss in net. So far this season after three games (2-0-1) Greiss has a goal against average of 1.96 and posted a  .938 sv%.

Image Credit: Pittsburgh Penguins, Digital Preview

Image Credit: Pittsburgh Penguins, Digital Preview

The Islanders are not expected to make any lineup changes except for Jaroslav Halak in net. This hot goaltender has only allowed 7 goals over a 5 game winning streak. His season GAA is 2.54 with a .914 SV%. However Halak has historically struggled against the Penguins at times, losing 3-1 in their first matchup this season. However he has also been able to shut the door on both Malkin and Crosby at times, so finding secondary scoring from both Sutter and Bennett may be a key to tonights game.

 

THE PENS CAN’T DRIVE 55:
Forgive the 80’s song reference, but it fits. The Penguins are playing their top rival in the Metropolitan division, and they need to put the gas pedal to the floor. This top division opponent will take advantage of sluggish, mistake-laden play as seen last night. If the team can control the pace of the game, break through the traffic in front of the goal, and  stay focused on winning they will take home a win.