Islanders defenseman Mark Eaton will face his former team for the first time in tonight's game against the Penguins.
And while the venue won't resurrect fond memories--the Penguins christened their new arena The Consol Energy Center this season--Eaton still expects a surreal feeling when playing against his former teammates for the first time since signing with the Islanders this July.
"There's always a strangeness about it," Eaton said. "When you win a Cup together, that's a bond that lasts forever. It's a family-type thing."
When the puck drops, however, Eaton won't be reliving the glory days of the 2008-2009 season when he helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup Championship.
"It's business," the 33-year-old veteran said. "You're trying to beat them and do whatever it takes to win."
That's Eaton, a guy his former teammates came to quickly respect on the ice and in the dressing room during his three seasons in Pittsburgh.
"He's not the most vocal guy, but he's a true professional," defenseman Alex Goligosky said. "Every day he comes to practice, he practices with a purpose. His play is kind of contagious.
"As a player," Goligosky said, "he's as solid as they come."
That veteran leadership and experience is what Islander GM Garth Snow desired when he targeted the free agent. That consistency and on-ice intelligence has solidified an Islanders defensive corps that was relatively inexperienced last year.
"You know what you're going to get every time he steps on the ice," coach Scott Gordon said before the game."
Reflecting on the situation when he came to play in Pittsburgh, Eaton said he finds parallels with the developing Islanders team he has joined.
"They have a young core that's fabulous and some veteran additions," Eaton said. "There are a lot of similarities. I'm hoping the process works the same."