Gameday Conference Quarterfinals #2: v. New York Islanders: Oh Captain, My Captain

penguinsvsisles

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. New York Islanders

Consol Energy Center, 7:00 PM, Root Sports, NBC Sports (local blackout), 105.9 the X

You want to know what the best part of the playoffs is? When two teams play each other 4 to 7 times in a row you are bound to get pushback. For a definition of what “pushback” is, see last night’s Red Wings/Ducks matchup. The Wings got outplayed in the first game, as such they came back to jump out to a 4-1 lead in this one before ultimately getting a 5-4 OT win. Don’t get us wrong, the Red Wings are a different story than the New York Islanders, half their roster is unchanged from their 2008 Stanley Cup-winning team, some pieces are the same as the 2002 Cup team. These are grizzled veterans who were never going to go out of the playoffs without a fight. Whether the Islanders will show any resolve in this series remains to be seen, they are almost 100% different from their last playoff team, from 2007, and most of the key players: Tavares, Moulson, Grabner, etc. have no experience outside of Wednesday’s game.

But you have to know that the Islanders are going to play like a different team tonight. The shock of playing in the playoffs is gone, now it’s time for them to see if they can make this a series. And there will be pushback. The Isles started to push back in the third period of Wednesday’s game when the refs decided to ref to the score, they stopped calling things against the Isles until ultimately it boiled over into Marty Reasoner’s dangerous and malicious attempted kneeing on Jussi Jokinen. Can the Islanders turn that kind of pushback into actual goals? Well, it’s tough to say.

The Penguins will offer their own pushback tonight, in the form of Sidney Crosby. This was like the worst kept secret yesterday when Pens reporters shared with everyone the fact that Sid had resumed skating between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis and that Jussi had been moved down to the fourth line. So think about this, James Neal does look doubtful (it looks like he really tweaked his ankle), but by exchange they get the best player in the world back.

We expect Sid to play some reduced minutes tonight, this is why the Pens brought in Jussi and it doesn’t seem right to demote the guy fulltime to the fourth line after scoring 2 points in game 1. Jussi can also take the left-handed, defensive zone faceoffs that the Pens relied on Sid for so heavily during the regular season. That seems like a win to me.

Lineups tonight for the Pens:

Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis
Bennett-Malkin-Iginla
Morrow-Sutter-Cooke
Glass-Jokinen-Adams

Martin-Engelland
Eaton-Letang
Murray-Niskanen

Marc Andre Fleury

No changes are expected in the Islanders lineup. It looks like Nabokov will be in goal although you have to wonder if he isn’t still reeling from that JATO to the face.

Keep the pressure on. Go Pens.

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