Penguins just want to beat Islanders, not get revenge
NEW YORK — Thursday’s rematch with the New York Islanders will be different for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mainly because of where it’s being held.
When they were on the wrong side of a tidy four-game sweep in last spring’s first-round series against the Islanders, the first two games of that series were played at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, one of the NHL most outdated, but perfervid, venues located in Uniondale, N.Y.
Their return as visitors against the Islanders on Thursday will unfold in the modern but anemic — for hockey, at least — Barclays Center of Brooklyn.
“The atmospheres in the rinks are a little bit different,” said diplomatic Penguins forward Bryan Rust. “So it does change it up a little bit.”
The Penguins don’t appear eager to change how they play based on the indignity of being swept by these Islanders however.
While acknowledging how they were easily dispatched by this foe approximately seven months ago, the Penguins want to treat this as simply being their 16th game of the season.
“You’re always up for those games when you’re playing a team you’ve faced prior (in the postseason),” Crosby said. “That being said, it’s a new team and a new situation. Your approach is probably a little different but it’s probably good motivation.”
Of more immediate concern is what this game means to the standing of each squad within the Metropolitan Division. In the midst of a 10-game winning streak, the Islanders have surged to second place in the division with an 11-3-0 record and 22 points. The Penguins, losers in five of their past seven games, are in fourth place with an 8-6-1 mark and 17 points.
“I don’t think we’re too worried about what our opponent’s record is or streaks or anything like that,” Crosby said. “For us, it’s important to get wins. We’ve played some pretty decent hockey and haven’t gotten the results that we’ve wanted here. So we’ve got to find a way to bring the same type of effort and mentality and turn some of those losses we’ve had into wins.”
The Islanders don’t appear willing to buy the Penguins’ professed viewpoint that this just happens to be the next game on the schedule. They anticipate extra motivation from this opponent.
“It’s never nice to get swept. It happened to us,” Islanders forward Casey Cizikas said of his team’s sweep at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round. “I can tell you it doesn’t feel good. They’re going to come out, they’re going to be playing hard.”
“I’ve been on both sides really,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz told reporters at the team’s practice facility in East Meadow, N.Y. “You always remember ‘last year.’ Because when you lose a series and your season comes to an end, it leaves a bitter taste. So there’s a little edge to the next time you play. Youv’e got a little extra motivation. ‘You got me maybe last year but I’m going to get your this year’ type of attitude. We understand.”
The Penguins certainly understand what the Islanders will bring to this game.
“They look basically the same,” Rust said. “They’ve got a lot of similar guys playing the same way. A hard, structured game. We’ve got to expect that. There’s not going to be a lot of room out there tonight.
“They were really patient (in the playoffs). They were just waiting for us to make mistakes. They did a really good job of capitalizing on when we did. We’ve got to limit that.”
“We’re very aware of what kind of game it’s going to be going into it,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “There shouldn’t be any surprises. I think it will be a hard game. I don’t think there will be a lot of room out there. It will be a pretty tight defensive game. They’ll try to wait for us to make mistakes, just like last year. It’s our job to throw that same kind of game right back at them.”
Above all else, the Penguins realize one game in November isn’t going to avenge a humiliating defeat in April. And that there’s much more at stake beyond Thursday’s rematch.
“It’s a new season,” Rust said. “We’ve got them three more times after tonight. Tonight’s obviously a big, important game, but I don’t think it’s the end all, be all.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .