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NHL on NBCSN: Penguins and Islanders meet in huge Metropolitan Division clash

Patric Hornqvist, Thomas Greiss

Pittsburgh Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist (72) can’t get his stick on a rebound off New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the New York Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Games within the division are always important, but the deeper we get into the season the more important they become. The playoff picture in the Metropolitan is far from set. Sure, the Capitals have all but locked up the top spot in the division, but the number two and three seeds are still up for grabs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have an opportunity to close the gap between themselves (Wild Card team) and the New York Islanders (third place in the Metro). The Pens are currently three points behind the Isles, but New York has two games in hand.

There’s no doubt that the Penguins got a boost when Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup on Feb. 27. Since his return, Malkin has picked up a point in four of six games and Pittsburgh has four wins. The 29-year-old also scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s 6-1 clobbering of the Devils on Sunday night.

Another reason for Pittsburgh’s success is the production they’ve been receiving from their top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. Crosby enters tonight’s action having picked up at least one point in five straight games while Hornqvist has nine points in his last six contests.

For the Islanders, increasing the distance between themselves and the Penguins is imporant, but they still have their sights set on second place which would give them home ice advantage in the first round. They currently trail the Rangers by three points. The Isles have three games in hand.

The Islanders have won three in a row despite not getting much scoring from star forward John Tavares. The 25-year-old is having an uncharacteristically quiet season by his standards. He has just one point in his last four games and 51 points in 60 games all season.

Their depth scoring has been a big reason why they’ve had so much success in 2015-16. The Islanders have seven players with 11 goals or more with one player sitting at nine goals and four players at seven goals.