W2W4: Islanders at Penguins

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
7:27
PM ET
At a glance: The surging Islanders put their season-best three-game winning streak on the line Saturday, when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Eastern Conference's best team. The Islanders played Pittsburgh just eight days ago, falling 4-2 at home. They are 1-3 vs. Pittsburgh this year.

Playoffs? The Islanders enter Saturday's game tied with the Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders have played one more game than the Rangers, though, so the Rangers have the upper hand at the moment. It's an exciting time for the Islanders as they look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

New Penguins: This isn't the same Pittsburgh team the Islanders saw eight days ago. The Penguins are revamped after their shocking acquisition of Calgary forward Jarome Iginla, who makes Pittsburgh even deeper on its top lines. Pittsburgh also has added Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray since that last meeting. Thankfully for the Islanders, this is the final team they see Pittsburgh this season. The Islanders have lost three in a row against Pittsburgh since taking the first meeting between the teams.

According to media reports, Iginla might have to wait until next week to make his Penguins debut, because of immigration issues.

Help from schedule: While the Islanders have played well lately, it seems that might have a lot to do with their schedule. In this three-game winning streak, none of the teams they've beaten are currently in the playoff picture. In fact, none of the Islanders' past six wins have come against current playoff squads, and they last beat a playoff-bound team on March 5 (Montreal).

One man: As the Islanders stay in the thick of the playoff race, they're going to need star John Tavares to keep up his hot play. Tavares has 21 goals and 15 assists this year, and the team doesn't win when he doesn't produce; the Islanders are just 1-9-1 in games when Tavares hasn't notched a point. He is currently on a five-game point streak, and had a goal in Thursday's win vs. Philadelphia.

On the road: The Islanders should check with the NHL and see if they can have all their games moved to road venues, as that's where they've done their best work this year. The Islanders are 10-4-1 on the road, compared to 6-11-2 at home, and have won their past four in a row away from Nassau Colisuem. Coincidentally, their last road loss came against this Pittsburgh team on March 10.

Nine of the Islanders' final 14 games are on the road, which could help their playoff chances.

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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