GAMEDAY! Pens host Isles for 1st time since playoffs

Pens eager for action after three-day break
New York Islanders (3-3-3, 1-2 road) at Pens (7-2, 5-1 home), 7:00 pm ET

by John Toperzer

If practice makes perfect, then the Penguins should have no problems beating the New York Islanders on Friday night.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) was one of our better practices of the year, if not our best practice,” coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday.

For the first time, the Pens and Islanders will meet as Metropolitan foes. During the 2012-13 campaign, Pittsburgh knocked off New York four times in five regular-season matchups before squeaking past the Isles in a hotly-contested six-game playoff series.

The Penguins expect to welcome Norris Trophy finalist, Kris Letang, back into the lineup Friday for the first time this year. Letang has already taken his customary spot on the no. 1 power-play unit in practice and will likely be paired with Rob Scuderi at even-strength against New York.

Rookie defender Olli Maatta will also skate against the Islanders. He’s played his best hockey paired with Robert Bortuzzo, but the Pens may move Matt Niskanen to the third combo with Maatta. A season ago, Simon Despres had trouble cracking the lineup on a nightly basis. It will be interesting to see the team uses Maatta on a crowded blue line.

Bylsma said that first-year goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, will get a start in the next several games. Zatkoff surrendered six goals on 24 shots in a 6-3 loss to Florida exactly two weeks ago (Oct. 11) and hasn’t played since. The former Los Angeles Kings’ farmhand will need to show off some of his “stellar” attributes, as coach Bylsma called them, or face a demotion to the AHL.

One player promoted from Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, Jason Megna, could get his first taste of NHL action Friday. Megna scored five points (3G, 2A) and compiled a plus-8 rating in six games for the Baby Pens.

“He’s got NHL speed, he’s a fast skater brings speed to the game with some skill and ability, some jam,” Bylsma said of Megna. “That’s what he’s done at Wilkes-Barre. He’s used it on the penalty kill and been effective offensively. That’s something we’re looking for from him.”

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Player Injuries

Pens:

Beau Bennett (lower-body) — Out, on injured reserve but skated prior to the Pens’ gameday-skate Friday morning.

Kris Letang (knee) — In, the team has announced that Letang will make his season debut Friday.

Matt D’Agostini (lower body) — Out, eligible to come off IR Saturday in Toronto.

James Neal (torn muscle) — Out, working his way back from torn muscle around rib cage. Not practicing.

Isles:

Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) — Out, not practicing while he recovers from head injury.

Brian Strait (upper body) — Out, could return Saturday against Flyers but will miss matchup against Pens.

Michael Grabner (suspended) — Out, serving second of two-game suspension for hit on Nathan Gerbe.

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Goalies

Pens:
Marc-Andre Fleury

2013-14 7-1-0, 1.74 GAA, .930 save percentage, one shutout (overall)

5-1-0, 1.49 GAA, .943 save percentage, one shutout (home)

Career vs NYI 18-7-1-3, 2.54 GAA, .915 save percentage, four shutouts

Fleury won his first seven starts to 2013-14 and played well enough to beat the Avs on Monday in a 1-0 loss. He was pulled against the Islanders in the playoffs last spring, compiling a 3.51 GAA and .883 save percentage. Fleury did record a 26-save shutout in Game 1. He has four career regular-season shutouts versus the Isle, tied for most against any team (with the Rangers and Devils).

Jeff Zatkoff

2013-14 0-1-0, 6.00 GAA, .800 save percentage, no shutouts (Pittsburgh Pens)
2012-13 26-20-0, 1.93 GAA, .920 save percentage, five shutouts (Baby Pens)

Zatkoff gave up soft goals early in his only NHL start against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 11 and the team played its worst game of the season, collectively.

Isles:
Evgeni Nabokov

2013-14 3-2-3, 2.80 GAA, .905 save percentage, no shutouts (overall)
1-1-0, 2.90 GAA, .900 save percentage, no shutouts (away)
Career vs Pens 10-6-0, 2.13 GAA, .925 save percentage, two shutouts

The Penguins rattled the 38-year-old Nabokov to the tune of a 4.44 GAA and .852 save percentage in the six-game playoff series last spring. Nabokov famously had a streak of not allowing a goal to either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin prior to the playoffs. Both Crosby and Malkin beat Nabby in the series victory.

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Tweets of Import

Pens Inside Scoop ‏@PensInsideScoop

Zatkoff off the ice first. Indication he will start tonight. Not official though -SK

Pittsburgh Penguins ‏@penguins

#Pens line at morning skate: Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis, Jokinen-Malkin-Kobasew, Glass-Sutter-Megna, Engelland-Vitale-Adams. D: 7-44, 4-58, 3-2-41

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Pens-Isles: By the Numbers

Goals for/against per game

Pens: 3.33-2.22
Isles: 2.00-3.00

Goals scored

Pens: 18-9 (6 home games)
Isles: 7-9 (3 road games)

Goals by period

Pens: 9-8-13-0 for//4-10-6 allowed (overall)
Isles: 9-13-6-0 for//7-12-6-1 allowed (overall)

5-on-5 goals for/against

Pens: 1.27
Isles: 0.90

Power Play

Pens: 20 percent, 4-for-20 (home)
Isles: 0 percent, 0-for-7 (road)

Penalty Kill

Pens: 100 percent, 13-for-13 (home)
Isles: 87.5 percent, 7-for-8 (road)

Hits–Blocks–Missed Shots–Giveaways–Takeaways

Pens: 160H–103B–61MS–32G–32T (6 home gms)
Isles: 60H–58B–19MS–20G–23T (3 road gms)

Faceoffs

Pens: 55.4 percent (305W-246L)
Isles: 48.2 percent (251W-270L)

Penalties

Pens: 9.4 PIMs/game
Isles: 7.2 PIMs/game

Standard

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