(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins have defied the odds and stayed alive in the Atlantic Division title race despite not having their two biggest offensive weapons.
The Penguins hope to move into first place tonight when they visit the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Pittsburgh has been without captain Sidney Crosby since early January due to a concussion and fellow forwardEvgeni Malkin went down with a season-ending knee injury in early February. Crosby has been skating for weeks, but has not yet been cleared for contact and there is still no timetable for his return.
Still, the Pens, who have already clinched a playoff spot, enter tonight just one point behind Philadelphia for the Atlantic lead with two games left in the regular season for both clubs. However, the Flyers will have a say in the division race tonight, as they visit the Buffalo Sabres.
Philadelphia could clinch the division title with a win in Buffalo and a loss of any kind by the Penguins, who are also three points in front of Tampa Bay for the East's fourth seed.
The Penguins have won two straight and six of their last eight games. They last played on Tuesday and delivered a 4-2 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils. Pascal Dupuis had two goals while Jordan Staalnotched a goal and an assist to lead Pittsburgh to a win in its regular season home finale.
"It's a good feeling," Staal said of the win. "Obviously, we're still just trying to win games. We just have to control what we can do and let the standings do the rest."
Pittsburgh, which is 22-11-6 away from the Steel City this year, will close its regular season Sunday in Atlanta.
The Penguins have won three out of five against the Islanders this season, but New York destroyed Pittsburgh, 9-3, when the clubs last met on Feb. 11 at Nassau Coliseum. That game was an extremely chippy affair, as the teams combined for 65 penalties and 346 penalty minutes.
The Feb. 11 game was also memorable for the elbow Isles forward Trevor Gillies delivered to the head of Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi. The cheap shot earned Gillies a nine-game league suspension.
All told, Pittsburgh has won seven of nine and 10 of 13 in this series. The clubs have split the last eight encounters on Long Island.
New York is out of the playoffs and has lost two straight and five of its last six contests. The Isles were dealt a 3-2 regulation setback Wednesday in Boston, as Gregory Campbell notched the winner early in the second period for the Bruins.
Michael Grabner tallied twice for the Islanders, giving him the lead among rookies with 33 goals on the year.Rick DiPietro stopped 31 shots in the loss.
After tonight, New York will close out its season with tomorrow's game in Philadelphia. The Isles are 17-18-5 on home ice compared to a 13-20-7 mark on the road.