Isles to meet Penguins with added confidence
The last time the Islanders faced the Penguins, the eyes of the hockey world were on the game. Sidney Crosby made his return after a 101/2-month absence because of a concussion and everyone across North America wanted to see what the league's marquee player would do.
He did a lot, contributing two goals and two assists in a 5-0 rout that left everyone but the Islanders in awe. For the Isles and those around the league who view them as second-class citizens, it was another frustrating moment in the spotlight and a low point of a fast-fading season.
But since that night in Pittsburgh, things have changed. The Islanders have begun playing more complete games and have stopped hanging their heads when opponents get the first goal or two. The Isles' 4-1-3 record since that loss is a big turnaround from the 2-9-3 skid they were on after the shelling by Crosby and company.
When the Penguins come to the Coliseum Saturday night, there will be some obvious changes -- and not just in the way the Islanders have played.
"That was obviously a big night for one of the elite players in the game to come back," Jack Capuano said. "But it's a new night and there'll be different lineups. We just have to keep concerned with how we play."
The biggest difference will be in the visiting lineup. Crosby had 12 points in eight games for the Penguins, but a collision with teammate Chris Kunitz on Monday left Crosby feeling some of the same symptoms that sidelined him for nearly a year. He sat out Pittsburgh's loss to the Flyers on Thursday and did not travel to Long Island.
For the Islanders, the changes are more in their attitude. Rookie goalie Anders Nilsson's first NHL start Nov. 21 was memorable only for Crosby's return and nothing the Islanders did. Al Montoya has taken over as the clear No. 1 in goal and is likely to be in goal Saturday night.
"I think we were missing some confidence then," said David Ullstrom, who made his NHL debut after a call-up that night in Pittsburgh and has stuck around since. "We're more together now."
Notes & quotes: RW Nino Niederreiter (concussion) skated before the Islanders' practice, the first time the rookie has been on the ice since suffering his injury a week ago. G Evgeni Nabokov (groin) practiced; G Rick DiPietro (groin) did not.