Islanders vs. Penguins NHL Picks: Expect a High Scoring Game, Bet 'Over' 5

Mark Lathrop

Saturday, January 2, 2016 6:23 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 6:23 PM UTC

The Islanders and Penguins start off 2016 with a matchup in Pittsburgh as the Islanders deal with multiple injuries. Our NHL handicapper analyzes the matchup and makes his Saturday NHL Pick.

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NHL Pick: Over 5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


Islanders vs. Penguins
In Saturday night NHL action, the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Islanders in a matchup of Metropolitan division foes in the Eastern Conference. The 21-12-5 (47 Points) New York Islanders are currently in second place in the division behind the Washington Senators, while the 18-15-4 (40 Points) Pittsburgh Penguins are in fifth place in the division. The currently available NHL odds have the Penguins favored on home ice in this game at -119 on the money line at Pinnacle, while the Islanders can be had at +108 at the same book. The O/U total is listed at 5 and does not have a lean with the juice towards any direction at any book.

Both teams are coming off of wins on New Year’s Eve on Thursday night, giving each team the day off on Friday. The Penguins are returning home after a road trip that ended with a 5-2 win in Detroit. Pittsburgh got down two goals early in that game, trailing by that margin at the end of the first period. They then used two power-play goals in the second to tie up the game and finally busted it open in the 3rd period with three unanswered goals – including two goals by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin just 38 seconds apart.

Jeff Zatkoff was minding the net versus Detroit, saving 33 of 35 shots. The back up goalie for Pittsburgh is allowing 2.6 goals per game this year, but will likely cede to Matt Murray in net on Saturday night. Murray is allowing 1.72 goals per game in limited action so far this season and has never faced the Islanders.

The Islanders are coming into 2016 after a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Islanders goaltender, Thomas Greiss, was excellent in the game, stopping 42 of 43 shots. The Islanders were outshot 42-31 in the game, so they needed a solid performance by Greiss to have a chance to win. This was against the last place team in the league, so getting outshot is a bit of a concern for the Islanders.

With Islander starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, on injured reserve following an upper-body injury expect Greiss to get the start again on Saturday night against the Penguins. Greiss has had a fantastic season so far, going 11-5 with 2.03 goals allowed per game and a .936 save percentage. That save percentage is good for second in the league. He has played Pittsburgh twice in his career and won both games, allowing three goals between the two.

Halak isn’t the only concern for the Islanders, as defenseman Johnny Boychck was placed on injured reserve after the Buffalo game. Boychuk pretty much went head first into the boards at top speed and left the game grasping his shoulder not to return. It’s pretty fantastic video if you haven’t seen it yet. This is not a good development for an Islanders team that is having trouble with shot prevention.

The recent form between these two teams heavily favors the Islanders. New York has won the last 4 meetings and four of five, including two in Pittsburgh as money line underdogs.

Although there will be some extra motivation for Greiss as he faces his former team from last year, the injury to Boychuk is enough to give me concern in picking the Islanders outright in this matchup. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been hot of late and should find some success against a short Islander defensive squad on home ice. With that in mind I’m leaning towards the Over of 5 as my Saturday NHL Pick.

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