The NHL on NBCSN is back with another doubleheader on Wednesday night. Things get started at 8 p.m. ET with a Metropolitan Division showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. In the late game, the San Jose Sharks visit the Los Angeles Kings for their second meeting of the season.
To watch Penguins vs. Islanders, click here
Just a few months ago the New York Islanders were in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But after losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to free agency, and then getting only three points through the first 21 games from Andrew Ladd, their big-ticket free agent acquisition, the Islanders enter play on Wednesday night with the worst record (7-10-4, 18 points) in the NHL.
Now they have the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town.
To say the Islanders need this one would be quite the understatement. They are just 3-5-4 in the month of November, have been outscored 37-24, and have had several late third period meltdowns that have seen them either lose leads to force overtime, or give up game-winning goals in the final minutes. It’s all been enough to put coach Jack Capuano on the hot seat. Even though he has managed to remain behind the bench, you have to wonder how many more losses the Islanders can take at this point.
The Penguins, meanwhile, are coming off of a three-day break and looking to find some consistency on the season. Overall, their record (13-6-3) has been enough to keep them in contention for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but their actual play on the ice has not always matched the story the standings are telling.
Their defensive zone play has been problematic at times and resulted in a handful of blowout losses over the past couple of weeks, while they are still struggling to figure out just what to do with their goaltending situation that has not been as smooth as general Jim Rutherford had hoped it would be.
Just about the only consistent thing about them this season has been their captain, Sidney Crosby, as he enters play on Wednesday with a league-leading 15 goals in only 16 games. It is one of the best goal-scoring runs of his career, and he continued it in their most recent game when he scored with less than 30 seconds to play to force overtime against the New Jersey Devils.
He has dominated the Islanders throughout his career, and already has four points (two goals, two assists) in two games against them this season.
To watch Sharks vs. Kings, click here
It is usually fun when the Sharks and Kings get together.
These two teams met in the playoffs back in April for the third time in four years, and the Sharks were finally able to knock out their rivals after some heartbreaking defeats over the years. The Sharks were 2-1 winners over the Kings in the season opener.
More recently, the Sharks are coming off of a big overtime win on Tuesday night against Arizona thanks to a Brent Burns overtime goal that helped him maintain his scoring lead among NHL defensemen. He has been the driving force behind the Sharks’ offense this season and is not only the top scoring defenseman in the league, but one of the top scoring players at any position. He enters play on Wednesday ninth in the NHL scoring race.
The Sharks’ win on Tuesday, combined with an Edmonton loss, helped move the Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division.
Like their Stanley Cup final opponents in Pittsburgh, the Sharks are also trying to find some consistency this season and have spent the past month alternating between three-game winning streaks (two of them) and three-game losing streaks (two of them).
The Kings have had to deal with a little bit of that streakiness as well this season and are currently on the positive side of it, carrying a five-game winning streak into play on Wednesday. With a regulation win, they would move into a tie for first place with the Sharks and (for the time being) claim the top spot because they have played one fewer game.
They have managed to stay close in the Pacific Division race even though they have had to rely on their third-and fourth-string goalies for most of the season and only have seven combined goals from Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli.
Jeff Carter, with a team-leading 10 goals and 19 points, has been the big story in Los Angeles and recently he has been playing some of his best hockey of the season. During the Kings’ current winning streak he has been the focal point of the offense, scoring five goals and adding three assists.