In which we find out whether the visitors' locker room at the CEC is large enough for Trevor's cage…
Back when the Pens released their 2011-12 schedule, chances are some of the first games you may have looked for – after the Flyers games, of course – were the first couple of games against the Islanders. When the NHL schedule-maker blessed the Pens with this home-and-home series this week, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it.
We all know what this is about (but hey, if you want a refresher and have an hour to kill, here ya go…).
February 11, 2011.
I’m sure we’ll see tons of replayed footage of that mess, and you can bet Steigy and Errey will be going off about it. It may not matter for at least the first period that the Pens have already played a “retribution” game against the Isles. That, of course, was the Long Island Invasion game last April which the Pens won in a shootout, 4-3.
The cast of characters has changed a little. Brent Johnson is still around, but Rick DiPietro is – you guessed it – injured. Again. Max Talbot is gone. Eric Godard is gone. Zenon Konopka has taken his Mario Lemieux poster and moved on to Ottawa. Micheal Haley is back playing career minor leaguer and there’s no word on whether Jack Capuano has stooped down to Federal League levels again to call him back up for Tuesday night.
But this psychopath is still around, mysteriously drawing an NHL paycheck. And yes, as the caption indicates, that was in the warm-ups before the Feb. 11 game, a couple of hours before he’d staple-gun Eric Tangradi’s head to the glass then proceed to bark at him from the runway while Stewie tried to convince Tangradi that he wasn’t back in Belleville. I remember Zoe from PuckHuffers linking that picture and mentioning something about nightmares; I think it's still true.
And hey, John Tavares is still around. Lost amongst Gillies’ Ovie Leap into Tangradi's skull, Haley’s fifteen seconds of fame and Matt Martin attempting to turn Max Talbot into Steve Moore was a pretty healthy chop that this punk Tavares took at the legs of Kris Letang. Pretty sure Letang hasn’t forgotten that, either, especially if he gets a chance to catch Tavares on the boards.
So what do we want to see tonight? Maybe more importantly, what do we want to see THURSDAY night, when the Isles make their first trip to Pittsburgh since that February 11 crapfest?
Well, the way things have gone since that night, just getting out of that mausoleum of an arena without any more injuries would be a nice start.
The Pens have won three in a row heading in and are 6-2-2 on the season; they've got bigger fish to fry than going after faces. And the Isles aren't exactly a pushover, not that they ever really were. Tavares is tied for third in the league in scoring and the ever-dangerous P.A. Parenteau has 8 points in 6 games. Defenseman Mark Streit is healthy. Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson have gotten off to slow starts, but they're dangerous.
The Pens were measured in its response in early April (in part because it was getting ready for the playoffs), and they'll likely be measured in their response Tuesday night as well, at least as far any fighting goes. Thursday may be a different story, given that the CEC is sure to be host to a pretty charged-up crowd.
Do I think Bylsma has forgotten the incidents of February 11? Not really. Retribution against the Isles for a game that's almost a half-season old doesn't seem like something that's consumed him or this organization.
But would I be the least bit surprised if the Pens manage to get up on the Isles and he doesn't exactly call off the dogs? Absolutely not.
In fact, I would hope he doesn't.
Get your graveyard boots.
Do work, Pens.