These teams have already put on two fantastic shows this season on pure hockey standards. The dirty stuff really had not surfaced until the final minute of that November 22nd game. Down by a goal, the Islanders pulled goalie Kevin Poulin for a extra attacker in the person of Nielsen. While battling for space in front of Jeff Zatkoff, Nielsen was cross-checked by Craig Adams in the kidneys. Yeah, that hurts. A lot. Nielsen went down and was helped off the ice, his face looking like he swallowed a bag of Sour Patch Kids. There was no penalty and there should have been a penalty. After the final whistle, a minor scrum occurred. Look for that to happen early and often tonight.
And that's not the only thing. The Islanders are a ticked off team. November 22nd was the fourth of a current eight game losing streak for the Isles. They have not won since November 12th (3-1 against Nashville). They have scored six goals while giving up sixteen and Nielsen's been pointless since the Pens game (he also sports a nasty minus-6 rating). The Islanders need a win and they know they can beat the Penguins. Or at the very least keep up with them. A team in this bad a funk shouldn't/can't scoff at moral victories.
Here's the math: Tough Loss + Bad Memory + Rough Streak + Confidence Against Opponent + Home Ice = One heck of a angry and determined opponent.
The Penguins would be wise to prepare for the tough guy act. Wheel out the third line to start the game or just give them what they want and send Craig Adams out. The first period has all the potential to long and filled with nastiness. Not the kind of nastiness these two have had before, but nastiness nonetheless (Trevor Gillies . . . ugh!). The Pens need to get this game on the fast track like they're previous two matchups. They've put on outstanding up-down, high tempo hockey games and the sooner the Isles get their aggressions out the better. The Pens need more Sid verses Tavares and less Johnson verses DiPietro.
Or this could just be complete speculation and not hold a drop of water. Guess we'll find out at 7:00pm.
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