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Isles are up and down in Pittsburgh

John Tavares of the Islanders and Sidney Crosby

John Tavares of the Islanders and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins shake hands after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. (May 11, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

PITTSBURGH -- The Islanders have a rather mixed bag, history wise, in this city and this relatively new building where the Penguins play.

Friday night’s game should add to that memorable list either way.

If the Isles can pull out a win over the 7-2-0 Penguins with a defense that will feature Matt Carkner and recent signee Radek Martinek, plus goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who gets the start despite allowing nine goals the past two games, then this will go down alongside the two high points of the Isles’ trips to Consol Engery Center.

Those would be Game 2 of last season’s playoff series, a come-from-behind, 4-3 win to even that series and put the Pens on notice that it wouldn’t be an easy sweep.

Add in the 5-3 Isles victory on Mar. 27, 2012, a game that basically signaled the beginning of the end for the Pens’ Cup dreams that season -- Sidney Crosby was already out with a concussion and Marc-Andre Fleury was yanked after allowing five goals in two periods.

As it happens, Nabokov was pulled in that game as well, leaving after two with a groin problem that kept him from playing the final two weeks of that season.

Nabokov being pulled from games in this arena is a bit of a theme. He was yanked twice in last season’s playoff series, in Game 1 and Game 5, 5-0 and 4-0 losses. He was pulled on March 10 of last season in a 6-1 blowout loss, a game in which Crosby had five assists.

So there have certainly been more lows than highs here -- there was also Crosby’s return from a concussion on Nov. 21, 2011, when he had two goals and two assists in a 5-0 Isles loss, plus the Rick DiPietro/Brent Johnson knockout game, a 3-0 loss.

But the Isles have moved beyond the bad, according to Kyle Okposo.

“We are not the same team we’ve been in the past,” he said. “We’re the team that won 11 of 12 to get in the playoffs last season. We still know how to win. We’ve had a couple breakdowns early this season, but we’re going to be just fine.”

Jack Capuano said Kevin Poulin will likely start Saturday’s game at the Coliseum against Mark Streit and the Flyers. Martinek goes in for Brian Strait (upper body) and Carkner remains in for Lubo Visnovsky (concussion). Neither of the injured defensemen made the trip.

Eric Boulton (healthy) and Michael Grabner (suspension) are both still out. Grabner returns on Saturday, meaning Brock Nelson needs to have a standout game to stay in the lineup.

For the Penguins, rookie goaltender Jeff Zatkoff gets the call and Kris Letang makes his season debut.

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