Islanders ready for rematch with Penguins
Your move, Pittsburgh.
Almost two months have passed since the now-infamous Friday Night FightFest at Nassau Coliseum Feb. 11, a 9-3 Islanders' drubbing of the Penguins that set a franchise record with 346 total penalty minutes, 11 game misconducts and 15 fighting majors.
As they prepared to play the Penguins Friday for the first time since the brouhaha, the Islanders said they were not planning to initiate a repeat of the February fracas.
"We're not in a position to start anything. We took care of what we needed to take care of last game. The ball is kind of in their court now," Matt Martin said. "They are still fighting for positioning and they're probably going to want to play some hockey."
In the aftermath of the game, Martin received a four-game suspension for his from-behind attack on Max Talbot, Trevor Gillies received a nine-game ban for his elbow on Eric Tangradi, and the Islanders were fined $100,000 for the whole debacle.
The steep punishments are not the only deterrent, however. Circumstances have changed since their last meeting.
The Penguins are playoff-bound, for one. And the Islanders believe they have settled their score with Pittsburgh for previous transgressions -- Talbot's concussion-inducing hit on Blake Comeau and goaltender Brent Johnson's face-shattering knockout punch on Rick DiPietro during the team's 3-0 loss nine days earlier.
"They're going to the playoffs. We're not," said Zenon Konopka, one of the team's most vocal players leading up to, during and after the game. "We made our mark the last game. It's going to be up to them to see how this plays out intensity-wise."
With enough time to reflect, several of the game's primary participants admit things got out of hand. Martin said he believed the suspensions handed down by the league were "warranted."
"I'm not going to go against the league and say we were a bunch of angels," Martin said. "Some things were taken kind of overboard, I'll be the first to admit that. But no one is a bad guy in here."
Gillies acknowledged that some bad blood remains, but the 32-year-old enforcer believes cooler heads will prevail this time around. If not, they'll be ready.
"If the bell needs to be answered, we have guys to answer it," he said. "Besides that, it's just another hockey game."
Konopka hopes the rematch with the Penguins, which is the last home game of the season and a sellout, will be a good send-off for the team.
"This organization, we haven't had too many intense games in April that were sold out," said Konopka, "so let's cherish this one as a team and for the fans and have fun with it."