Revenge is not priority for Pens tonight

Friday, April 8, 2011

It has been nearly two months since the Penguins and Islanders engaged in a brawl-filled game Feb. 11, and the numbers from that night still resonate:

Penalties: 65

Penalty minutes: 346

Fighting majors: 15

Ejections: 10

Misconducts: 20

Suspensions: 4 (for 27 games)

The Penguins were ambushed two months ago on Long Island and would love to get revenge. Circumstances, however, indicate another historic brawl isn't likely.

The Penguins and Islanders meet again tonight in Uniondale in a game that is significantly more important to the visitors.

"If this game didn't mean anything to either team," right wing Arron Asham said Thursday, "I'm sure it would be a bloodbath. But to us, it's pretty important."

The Penguins still feel animosity toward the Islanders -- particularly enforcer Trevor Gillies, who managed to concuss forward Eric Tangradi, initiate a brawl and taunt the fallen Tangradi in a matter of moments.

Defending themselves -- but still keeping their composure -- seems paramount for the Penguins tonight.

"We have no intention of repeating what happened in February," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our sole intent is going in there playing our style of hockey, getting two points and putting ourselves in position to secure home ice (in the playoffs)."

Even though Bylsma is committed to winning the game, he remains less than pleased about that Friday night on Long Island. Eight Friday nights later, the teams meet again.

"What happened in February was largely done to us, and we had to react," Bylsma said.

The Penguins made it clear yesterday that they aren't intimidated by the Islanders and will fight if necessary. Winning the game, though, is more important. Should the Penguins win their final two games of the regular season and the Flyers go 1-1 -- or the Penguins split and the Flyers lose both games -- the Penguins will win the Atlantic Division and likely earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"We just want a hockey game," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "We have the playoffs (coming), so no one needs to break a hand or finger or pop a shoulder out doing something stupid. We have a lot more to lose than they do right now."

The Penguins also have one disadvantage: As the visitors, they must enter their lineup first. If they knew which Islanders -- someone like Gillies, for example -- were playing, Bylsma could better equip his squad. Instead, it's a guessing game.

Deryk Engelland and Eric Godard have been healthy scratches recently, but both could play tonight. If Bylsma plays them, it could lead to more fighting.

But it also would give his team some protection against an Islanders squad that appeared intent on inflicting harm two months ago.

"Game-time decision," Bylsma said of Engelland and Godard.

There is no question that NHL officials, likely including commissioner Gary Bettman, will be in attendance tonight. The Penguins expect to hear a warning before the game, but that doesn't mean they will back down. They simply hope things don't escalate like last time.

"I love how this team defends each other," left wing Mike Rupp said. "If something arises against the Islanders, we will handle it."

The Penguins would prefer to handle any need for revenge next season at Consol Energy Center, preferably with the 2011 Atlantic Division championship banner hanging from the ceiling.

"It's a huge game, and I hope things don't happen like in the last game," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "But we'll stick together, no matter what."

Read more: Revenge is not priority for Pens tonight - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review