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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, January 23rd (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-2) at New York Islanders (21-24-7), 7:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The surging New York Islanders take aim at a third straight victory when they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins for Thursday's Metropolitan Division clash at Nassau Coliseum.

New York has been on a hot streak of late, winning 10 of its last 13 games to begin to make a push for a postseason spot. Despite their improved play, the Islanders are still five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Isles have come back to win in each of their last two outings and overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to earn a 5-3 road decision against the rival New York Rangers on Tuesday.

Thomas Vanek's power-play goal with 4:38 remaining proved to be the game- winner and Frans Nielsen added an empty-netter in the closing seconds to seal the comeback victory.

The Islanders trailed 3-1 deep into the second period before erupting for four answered goals to rally for their seventh win in nine games. Vanek and Nielsen each scored once and assisted on another, while John Tavares registered three helpers in the come-from-behind triumph.

Vanek has recorded a point in six straight games, while Nielsen has reached the scoresheet in his last five outings.

Matt Martin, Thomas Hickey and Colin McDonald added goals and Kevin Poulin made 30 saves, 13 of which came in the final period, to help the Islanders prevail.

"We're a resilient team," said Hickey. "It comes down to the third period and if you win the third period, you win the game. (A bad start) is not a trend we're looking to continue, but it's good to know that we can be down and still be able to come back."

The Isles are kicking off a four-game homestand tonight and have won three of their past four tilts at the Coliseum. All told, New York is just 8-9-7 on Long Island this season and the club has lost three straight and six of its past seven home games against the Penguins.

Pittsburgh has taken six of seven overall in this series and is 2-0 against the Isles since dropping a 4-3 home decision versus New York on Oct. 25. Thursday's encounter is the final scheduled meeting between the clubs this season.

The Penguins won for the third time in four games on Wednesday, registering a 5-1 blowout win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. Jussi Jokinen lit the lamp twice to help Pittsburgh dominate the Habs at CONSOL Energy Center.

Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal and an assist, while Sidney Crosby and Taylor Pyatt supplied Pittsburgh's two other goals. Matt Niskanen had two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves to help the Penguins improve to 6-1-1 in January

"We definitely buckled down, especially defensively, and didn't give them a ton," Crosby said. "When we did, Fleury made some good saves and we generated some good chances and capitalized on them. I think it was a good game to respond."

Pittsburgh is leading the Metropolitan Division by a wide margin, as it currently holds a 15-point lead over the second-place New York Rangers. The Penguins are also seven points in front of Boston for the top spot in the East.

The Pens are playing two straight and four of their next five on the road. They have a 14-9-2 record as the guest compared to their stellar 21-4-0 mark at home.

01/23 10:54:48 ET

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