The Islanders skate into Steeltown Friday night to take on the Penguins. Here are three factors to watch when the action starts.
The Penguins new abode, Consol Energy Center, has not been hospitable to its hosts thus far. The Pens are winless at home to start the season and will be determined to get that W. Also working in their favor; the Pens have won their last eight home games against the Islanders.
Scott Gordon’s team enjoyed fast starts against the Rangers and in their loss to the Capitals, but I’d expect the Pens to match the early effort level. If New York can get the first goal though, Pittsburgh may press and open itself up to a few mistakes the Islanders can exploit.
What’s Next for El Nino?
The talented rookie notched his first NHL goal against Washington, but he hasn’t had a huge impact to date. Through the first three games the goal remains his only point and he’s put just five shots on goal. More concerning to his development, he's averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time while skating on the third line. With all of the Islander injuries, I think a lot of people expected him to be skating a little more. When his more developed teammates return from injuries, I wonder how many minutes will be available for Niederreiter. It sure feels like he’ll be bound for Portland after his ninth game, thereby preserving a season of his entry-level contract and getting him more quality minutes. If he’s going to stick around, he may have to make a better impression. And soon.
For his part, draft guru Gare Joyce writes that Niederreiter is currently on the wrong track for his development.
As Lighthouse Hockey astutely points out in their game preview, the Isles’ top D pairing of Mark Eaton and Radek Martinek did a solid job containing Alex Ovechkin in Washington and you’d expect them to draw the Crosby assignment in Pittsburgh. Martinek saw 11 minutes of ice time against Crosby in the one meeting prior to Martinek’s injury last season. Eaton should have a good read on the NHL’s top center as well, having played with him in Pittsburgh for four seasons before coming to Long Island.