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 rebounded from a 6-2 drubbing at Minnesota on Friday with a shootout win over New Jersey the following day to improve to 6-0-0 following a regulation defeat. "I thought we responded the right way," captain Sidney Crosby, who kept the streak intact by scoring the tying goal with 14 seconds left in regulation, told reporters. Meanwhile, the Islanders are buried at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference. New York won for only the third time in 12 games this month by squeezing out a 2-1 overtime win over Calgary on Monday night.
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ABOUT THE PENGUINS (13-6-3): Pittsburgh received a boost when injured forwards Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz, who have missed six and four games, respectively, returned to practice Tuesday. Kunitz (lower body) still is not ready to play, but Hornqvist could be back in the lineup against the Islanders after being sidelined due to a concussion. "They both bring a lot of energy," Crosby told reporters. "They bring things at both ends of the ice, too. They're solid defensively and forecheck hard."
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (7-10-4): Aside from its struggles away from home, winning just once in eight games, New York's offense remains stuck in the mud while failing to score more than two regulation goals in the past eight contests. One positive sign for the Islanders in the win over Calgary was a first-period tally by captain John Tavares, which snapped a nine-game goal drought. "I have a lot of expectations," Tavares told reporters. "I have to make plays and produce. And lead by example."
1. Pittsburgh won both matchups against the Islanders this season, including a 3-2 overtime decision at Barclays Center on Nov. 18.
2. Tavares has 10 goals and 26 points in 37 games against Pittsburgh.
3. Crosby has tormented the Islanders with 31 goals and 98 points in 56 games.
PREDICTION: Penguins 3, Islanders 2