During the midst of the NCAA March Madness, the Pittsburgh Penguins are creating “havoc on ice” as they look to extend their winning streak to 11 games Friday night against the New York Islanders.
If the Penguins do so, it will be tied for the longest winning streak this season.
The spotlight is on the status of Pittsburgh stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, who are both questionable.
Malkin has missed the past six contests with a shoulder injury he suffered on March 9th in Toronto after being hit into the boards by Maple Leafs’ forward James van Riemsdyk.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Malkin considered himself as “not 100 percent.” He skated Wednesday morning with limited contact and made it seem like he’s close, but in no hurry to come back too soon.
It certainly appears as if the Penguins do not need to rush the reigning MVP back into the lineup. In the last six games Malkin was out, Pittsburgh outscored their opponents 19-6.
Letang is more of a possibility to be in action Friday, nonetheless, still a question mark.
He left Sunday’s game in the first period against the Boston Bruins and did not return after suffering what was described as a lower-body injury.
In Letang’s absence, Head Coach Dan Bylsma has been able to rotate his blue-liners and rely heavily on guys like Paul Martin, Simon Despres and Matt Niskanen.
While Letang has been leading the National Hockey League in scoring among defensemen, Martin currently ranks eighth with 19 points (6 G, 13 A) and a respectable plus-7 rating.
Having both former All-Stars back would be exciting but it only makes more sense to give both the extra rest seeing how Pittsburgh plays two of the worst teams in the East with the Philadelphia Flyers coming to town Sunday night.
Either way, the Penguins (23-8-0) will look to continue their dominance against the Islanders and take a 3-1 lead in the season series.
The last time the two teams met, Pittsburgh dominated New York at the Consol Energy Center 6-1 on March 10. It was a game where the top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis combined for a total of 12 points led by Kunitz’s hat trick.
The Islanders (13-14-3) go into Friday’s game sitting in 4th in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Flyers. They will be playing their second game of a back-to-back after losing to the Montreal Candadiens Thursday night and have given up five goals in each of their last two games.
Pittsburgh is tied with Montreal for the second best record on the road at 12-4 while New York holds the worst record on home ice at 5-10-2.