There may be bad feelings left over from the Islanders-Penguins fight-marred games last season, but a more pressing matter may be at hand for Tuesday night's first meeting of the season: The Islanders need a win.
To that end, Jack Capuano assembled the team Monday at Nassau Coliseum. He didn't call it a team meeting, but some air apparently was cleared.
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"You know what," the coach said, "for me, it's not even a rivalry, it's another game, because we obviously lost two games [in Florida]. We didn't play a full 60 minutes. We addressed some issues this morning and we have to make sure that we are better from the start to the finish. You know what, they were in the postseason, we weren't. We're just trying to win games."
At the same time, Capuano said he is lowering the volume on the issue of a paucity of goals from any player not named John Tavares. Less talk by the coach, he reasoned, might produce more goals from the supporting cast. "I think guys know what they have to do," he said.
Captain Mark Streit said: "We had a bad road trip. Nobody's happy. We have to play better . . . .There's no point to panic."
Still, there are last season's brawls to be addressed. They reached a fever pitch on Feb. 11, resulting in fines and suspensions after the Islanders' 9-3 victory over the Penguins at home. Trevor Gillies was banished for nine games, Matt Martin four, and the team was fined $100,000. It all stemmed from an incident nine days earlier in Pittsburgh when Penguins goalie Brent Johnson landed a one-punch knockout to Rick DiPietro.
DPietro, who appeared in only 26 games last season, has not played this season. He seemed healthy in the preseason but experienced concussion-like symptoms after taking a slap shot to the mask in practice Oct. 12. He had his second full workout since then Monday and presumably could be ready to play Tuesday night, but Capuano would not say if he will be his goalie.
"I don't know, it's up to them," DiPietro said about his status. He said he is not looking for redemption against the Penguins. "We lost, I didn't do very well in the fight, that's it. New season, new start.''
Gillies cemented his enforcer reputation with his brawling against the Penguins, but he also tried to downplay any extra emotion for the opponent this time. "The only thing special,'' he said, "is that we need the points.''
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