If the Pittsburgh Penguins and the visiting New York Islanders could assign a theme to their two-game set that starts Saturday, it might be taking care of business.
The Islanders have been doing that most of the season. Case in point: They topped Boston 4-3 in overtime Thursday to boost their record against the Bruins to 5-0 and win their third game in a row and 12th in 14 games overall.
That sort of taking care of business had the Islanders in first place in the tight East Division going into Friday’s games.
“We got the two points. That’s all we care about — collecting points,” New York coach Barry Trotz said after his club came from behind to take a lead Thursday, then fell into a tie before Anthony Beauvillier won 21 seconds into overtime.
Beauvillier called it “a typical Islanders win,” indicating a willingness for the team to grind out wins in whatever fashion necessary.
And they have been doing that despite losing team captain Anders Lee to a torn ACL March 11 that ended his season.
One player who has helped fill the gap offensively is rookie Oliver Wahlstrom. He gave New York a brief lead in the third period against Boston and now has scored in four of the past five games.
“He’s trying to learn every day he comes to the rink,” linemate Jean-Gabriel Pageau said of Wahlstrom. “When he’s got the puck, he’s got a great shot.”
With games in Pittsburgh Saturday and Monday, the Islanders can take care of more business. They are 2-2-2 against the Penguins, and these will be the final two meetings between the clubs.
Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 in its past four games. That includes coming off a two-game, two-night sweep of Buffalo by a combined 9-2.
The Sabres are languishing in last place in the East and are riding a 16-game losing streak, so the sweep could be described as taking care of business on Pittsburgh’s part.
The Penguins now are going from worst to first in terms of their successive opponents.
And they are doing it short-handed. Winger Kasperi Kapanen is the latest to get hurt. He got hit by a puck in the left foot or ankle during Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Buffalo and is out on a week-to-week basis.
That means five of Pittsburgh’s top nine forwards, including star center Evgeni Malkin, are out of the lineup. The most likely to return Saturday would seem to be winger Brandon Tanev, who is listed as day to day, but that’s hardly a given.
“We’ve just got to keep moving forward,” said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, whose three assists in Thursday’s 4-0 win over Buffalo gave him 1,300 career points.
“It’s not easy when you’re seeing guys each game go down, but I think for guys to come in the way they have and to play pretty strong games here, that’s important. We’re going to have to continue to work together, and everyone’s got to do their part.”
Which would be a way of taking care of business.
Thursday, Jared McCann stepped up, scoring twice while filling in for Kapanen on the Penguins’ top power-play unit. McCann has been out of the lineup twice because of injuries but has seven goals and 13 points in 21 games.
“Jared can score goals,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve said that for a while now — he can score goals.
“At this particular time with the injuries that we have, we’re relying on him to help us offensively.”
–Field Level Media