Islanders-Penguins Preview

The Associated Press

With Sidney Crosby scoring goals again, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear back on track after a rare loss.

That likely does not bode well for the New York Islanders, who have not won in Pittsburgh in more than four years.

Trying to win 11 in a row at home for the first time in 21 years, Crosby and the Penguins have a chance to take over the Eastern Conference lead Tuesday night with a sixth straight win over the Islanders in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Among the game's greatest playmakers, Crosby's only two previous goals in 2011-12 came during a 5-0 home win over the Islanders on Nov. 21, in his season debut after his first concussion. It would be 13 games and four months before Crosby scored again in Saturday's 8-4 loss at Ottawa.

Crosby skated around a pair of New Jersey defensemen then broke in all alone for a third-period goal Sunday to help the Penguins bounce back from that defeat and post a 10th straight home victory, 5-2 over the Devils.

"Only special players can do that," teammate Pascal Dupuis told the Penguins' official website. "You get a different skillset when you're able to make plays like that and make it look easy."

The Penguins have made it look easy for the most part during a 14-1-1 stretch that has them one point behind the East-leading New York Rangers. Pittsburgh has not won 11 straight at home since Jan. 5-March 7, 1991.

"We have a lot that we can still improve on," said Crosby, who has two goals and 11 assists in seven games back from his latest concussion and neck injury. "We just want to do the same things we're doing. We do do things wrong, but their are guys that step up. Just make sure we're solid going into the playoffs."

Crosby, who has 12 goals and 27 assists in 18 career home games against the Islanders, is not the only Penguin playing well. Dupuis has set career highs with 23 goals and 27 assists, including eight with five assists during his 10-game point streak.

The Penguins are 20-1-1 this season when the veteran winger scores.

"The more you put on the better chance you have to score,'' said Dupuis, who has two goals and five assists versus New York this season. "That's what they ask everybody to do to create opportunities.''

Pittsburgh has outscored New York 17-5 while winning the first four meetings this season. The Islanders, 0-11-2 in Pittsburgh since a 4-2 win Dec. 21, 2007, have scored two goals and been shut out three times in their last four at the Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins may be leaning more on their offense for this game since they will be without three of their defensemen. Coach Dan Bylsma said Kris Letang will not play due to a lower-body injury, and Matt Niskanen has an undisclosed injury that will sideline him for this game.

Additionally, fellow blue liner Ben Lovejoy is expected to be sidelined at least three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery after suffering the injury in Sunday's win over the Devils. Lovejoy's timetable to return also likely keeps him out of Pittsburgh's first-round playoff series.

New York (31-33-11), however, won 3-2 in a shootout at Southeast Division-leading Florida on Sunday to improve to 3-1-0 on a five-game road trip. Matt Moulson recorded his team-leading and career-high 34th goal, Kyle Okposo scored for the second straight game and Frans Nielsen added the lone tally in the shootout for the Islanders, who will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season.

"You still want to win hockey games and play hard, keep building,'' Nielsen said. "We can't just lay down and die. We have to keep playing.''

Moulson has nine goals and five assists in the last 15 games, but he's been held scoreless versus Pittsburgh this season.

The teams conclude their season series Thursday on Long Island.