Islanders at Penguins
The New York Islanders are attempting to measure themselves against the elite of the Eastern Conference. After hanging tough with Tampa Bay before the bottom fell out, the Islanders look to rebound on Thursday when they play the third contest of their four-game road trip against the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's going to be a good test. It'll be a character check coming off a tough loss in Tampa (on Tuesday)," said Mathew Barzal, who scored and set up a goal in the 6-2 setback to the Lightning. The 20-year-old British Columbia native leads all NHL rookies with 26 points, and 12 of them (four goals, eight assists) have come in the last 10 games. The Islanders have emerged victorious in eight of 11 to reside a point ahead of Pittsburgh, which saw its four-game winning streak end with a 4-3 setback to the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Patric Hornqvist scored and set up a goal in the loss to extend his point streak to six games, during which he has four goals and as many assists.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG-Plus (New York), Sportsnet, TVAS, AT&TSN-Pittsburgh
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (16-9-2): Jordan Eberle continued his offensive surge with his 11th goal of the season on Tuesday, giving him six points (four goals, two assists) in his last six games. The 27-year-old Saskatchewan native has flustered the Penguins in his career, highlighted by his two-goal, one-assist performance in a 4-3 setback at Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 2016, while he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Barzal's goal on Tuesday was New York's ninth on the power play in the last 10 games, however the penalty kill has been gouged for multiple goals in each of the last three contests.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (15-11-3): Coach Mike Sullivan wasn't overly optimistic when discussing the availability of Justin Schultz against the Islanders after the offensive-minded defenseman sustained a lower-body injury versus the Rangers and was absent from Wednesday's practice. "I'm not going to rule him out," Sullivan said, "but it's not probable at this point." Should Schultz be unable to play, Chad Ruhwedel would slide into the lineup and be paired with Ian Cole on defense.
1. Pittsburgh's line of Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel has combined for three goals and six assists in the last three games.
2. The Islanders have won all 10 contests in which they've scored first this season.
3. The Penguins waived C Greg McKegg, who has been out of the lineup since Nov. 27 and recorded two goals and as many assists in 26 games this season.