Gameday #32: @ New York Islanders

penguinsvsisles

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ New York Islanders

Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum, 7:00 PM, Root Sports, NHL Network (local blackout)

The Pens owe a lot of credit to the Islanders, although not every game has been a breeze, the Penguins have never come close to being as bad as they were when they were booed off of home ice in the first matchup of the season, a 4-1 loss.

Since then the Pens have gone 2-0 against the Islanders including the Sock Monkey Game just 12 days ago. Overall, since that game the Pens have gone 20-5, and of course they’ve won their last 10.

For all their inconsistencies the Islanders refuse to fade into obscurity as they normally do at this time of year. They’re in 10th in the conference, only 3 points away from the 8th seed. I have no idea why but I really hope they find a way to sneak in, especially over the Rangers and Flyers, not that the Flyers seem capable of even putting up a fight at this point.

The Islanders do have some tough questions to answer as we race towards the trade deadline: their two best defensemen, Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky, along with bargain star Brad Boyes, are all pending UFAs. If the Isles aren’t going to make the playoffs they ought to see what they can do with those guys. They’ll probably get a good feel for their chances after tonight’s game.

You can tell that people are legitimately surprised that the Isles are still relevant, both The Hockey Writers and NHL.com are running front page stories on them. The Hockey Writers piece, found here, is the lamest, most reactionary piece I’ve read in years and NHL.com, found here, really seems to harp on the Pens for letting Matt Moulson go, years and years ago.

Still no Geno or Tanger for the Pens tonight but I literally don’t care if they don’t come back until after the weekend, the Islanders are bound to be mad following the 6-1 shellacking they took two weeks ago and the Flyers, who have nothing to live for, will surely be head hunting on Sunday.

The Pens have recalled Trevor Smith from WB/S, his stat line is pretty solid: second on the team with 18 goals, 23 assists, 41 points. Not so bad. Doubt he’s expected to play though. No clue on who is playing goal tonight, although Vokoun was really sharp in the Sock Monkey Game.

In unrelated news, Alexei Kovalev has officially retired from the NHL. We don’t want to dwell on Kovy’s untapped potential or criticize his return to the Pens in the 2010-11 season. Kovy was an incredible talent, and this author’s favorite part of the late 90s Pens, what we regard as the most fun generation of hockey we’ve ever gotten to experience. The thing I’ll probably most remember about Kovy is that he and Marty Straka used to play the points on the Pens’ top PP, that was insane. Adios Kovy.

Eleven is better than ten. Go Pens.

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