At a glance: Tuesday is the first meeting of the Islanders and Penguins this season and the second game since that cringe-inducing night more than eight months ago – a 9-3 drubbing by the Islanders February 11 that featured a franchise record-setting 346 penalty minutes.
Put it in the past: Although several players acknowledged the events of last season are behind them, the bad blood is not completely lost. The infamous game – which resulted in two suspensions and a $100,000 fine for the Islanders – was played under completely different circumstances, however. Last February the lowly Islanders bullied their way past a playoff-bound Penguins squad, but now both teams are battling for points. The Penguins lead the Atlantic division with 14 points and a 6-2-2 record, while the Islanders are sitting in last place one point shy of the Devils after dropping two straight in Florida.
Game-time decision for Malkin: Star center Evgeni Malkin skated with the Penguins Tuesday morning, but coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t say whether he’d return to the lineup. Bylsma said Malkin, who has missed five straight games with soreness in his surgically-repaired right knee, was a game-time decision.
Nabby starts again: 36-year-old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will make his second straight start for the Islanders. Coach Jack Capuano said he wanted to go back to the former Vezina trophy finalist because of the way he played in Florida, but Nabokov’s record against the Penguins isn’t too shabby either. The long-time San Jose Shark, claimed by the Islanders off waivers last season, is 8-1-0 with a 1.62 goals against average and .939 save percentage in nine career games against the Penguins.
DiPietro to back up: Rick DiPietro will dress for the first time since suffering a concussion in practice 12 days ago. The 30-year-old netminder said he felt “good,” but didn’t want to predict when his next start would be. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he told ESPNNewYork.com.
Sid stays home: League superstar Sidney Crosby, who has been out with a concussion since January, did not make the trip with the team. The 24-year-old has been cleared for contact in practice, but Bylsma said the team still has no timeline for his return.
Injured Isles: Milan Jurcina and Nino Niederreiter, who are both battling groin injuries, skated Tuesday morning at Nassau Coliseum. The hulking defenseman will likely return to the lineup soon, and according to Capuano, Niederreiter will begin practicing with the team again in the next few days. Both have yet to play a game this season.
See you soon: Tuesday is the first of a home-and-home set against the Penguins. The two teams will meet again Thursday at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Islanders have earned at least one point in each of their last seven games against the Penguins at home.
Bottom line: With both teams looking for wins within the division, don’t expect Tuesday’s game to erupt into a bloodthirsty clash. The Islanders need to keep their emotions in check to stave off a three-game losing streak and right the ship.