Islanders-Penguins Preview

While both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have scored 63 goals, the Islanders are near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division while the Penguins are in first place. The difference for the Penguins has been defense, and they'll try to continue their stingy ways when they host the Isles on Friday night. Pittsburgh (14-8-0) is allowing 25.0 shots on goal per game, among the lowest marks in the NHL, and its 48 goals given up are among the fewest in the league. Marc-Andre Fleury is fourth overall with a 1.90 goals-against average. "Smothering is always a word we use," coach Dan Bylsma said after a 4-0 victory over Washington on Wednesday, the club's second straight and third in four games since a three-game skid. "We don't give up a lot or allow (opponents) to use their speed in space." Fleury recorded his second shutout of the season with 18 saves and has posted a 1.25 GAA in going 3-1-0 in the last four contests. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have provided the offense, with Crosby recording 28 points and notching two goals and an assist over the past two. Malkin has 19 assists, 12 of which have come in his last nine games. Crosby scored but the Islanders won 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 25, snapping the Penguins' four-game regular-season winning streak in the series. Pittsburgh has been very good on home ice, winning four of five there to give it a 9-3-0 mark with only 21 goals allowed. New York (8-11-3) hasn't been nearly as effective in its own end, giving up 71 goals for one of the highest totals in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Poulin, playing in place of injured No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov, made 24 saves in a 5-2 loss at Toronto on Tuesday. "He's got an opportunity to play some more games," coach Jack Capuano said. "Just knowing him and the way he is, he's going take this opportunity and make the most of it." In Poulin's only start against the Penguins on Jan. 25, 2011, he stopped 31 shots in a 1-0 Pittsburgh victory. "This is why you play hockey," Poulin told the team's official website. "You want to play more and you want to win." The Islanders have dropped six of eight. "We have a lot to prove still and we're still a growing team and we need to find our game on a consistent level," leading scorer John Tavares said. "We need to be better in a lot the gritty areas, things that top teams do really well, and we don't do that enough."