(Better to avoid this tonight, Jeff)
Jeff Zatkoff was the first Penguins goalie off the ice during the team's morning skate which translates into him starting tonight against the New York Islanders. It'll be Zatkoff's second NHL start and the first since his forgettable night in Sunrise, Florida two Fridays ago. But let's not continue to beat the pile of dust that used to be a dead horse. Instead, let's examine the reasons why Zatkoff's night will be a more positive affair.
First, the game is at the CONSOL Energy Center. While no one is calling the BB&T Center a hostile environment (and how could a barely 50% filled arena be?), it probably did not help Zatkoff's mindset to hear no cheers or such directed his way. Home ice is (usually) friendly ice, and Pens fans are (usually) good people. If the rookie stumbles out of the gate, the crowd shouldn't leap at his throat. Plus, the Pens are one of the best home teams in the NHL. Zatkoff will hopefully play up to his teammates.
Secondly, the New York Islanders are not that great a team. Their is 3-3-3 and those nine points have them fourth in the Metropolitan Division. The Isles do have a collective scoring touch. Guys like Frans Nielsen (five goals, six assists), Matt Moulson (five goals, three assists), and Jonathan Tavarse (four goals, seven assists) are tough for any goalie. However, the Islanders have allowed 28 goals to scoring 29. The highest plus/minus on the team is Nielsen's plus-5. This is not the defensive team that frustrated the Pens in the playoffs. If the Isles want a gunfight, the Pens can oblige which takes some pressure off of Zatkoff.
Also, starting Zatkoff tonight is smarter than throwing him into the meat-grinder of Saturday's matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins need Fleury for that one. Flower's revenge will have to wait until November 22nd.
Lastly, Zatkoff's had two weeks to reflect on giving up six goals to the Panthers. The Panthers. He should either be ticked off and ready to show the Pens what he's really capable of or so shot down in swagger that he's primed for another blunder. Let's hope it's the former, because the Pens would rather not have Fleury appear in consecutive games. And Zatkoff would rather remain in the NHL then go back to the AHL.
Puck drops at 7:00pm. Send your happy thoughts into the universal causeways, people.
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