Penguins-Islanders Preview

Jarome Iginla spent parts of 17 seasons as the go-to guy for the
Calgary Flames, on and off the ice.

A star player and overall leader on a club that was often
outside the hockey spotlight, the fact he forged what will surely
be a Hall of Fame career is a testament to his skills.

None of those seasons ended with a Stanley Cup championship, and
the Flames haven’t even made the playoffs since 2009. But Iginla’s
career has been reborn with a late-season trade to the Pittsburgh
Penguins, who have lots of talent and as good a chance as any to
claim the title this year.

”I don’t think it’s been an adjustment at all,” said Iginla,
acquired on March 28. ”As far as doing interviews and stuff,
probably a few less, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m just
focused on trying to make sure I’m prepared and ready for the games
and just keep trying to get better and add that to the group.”

That bunch includes stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and
Marc-Andre Fleury – so Iginla has no trouble keeping to himself.
The main reason he attracted attention Monday after the Penguins
held an optional practice before Tuesday’s Game 4 against the New
York Islanders is the fact Crosby and Malkin took the opportunity
to rest their legs and their voices.

The top-seeded Penguins lead the best-of-seven, first-round
Eastern Conference series 2-1, and they have earned their two wins
in different ways.

Pittsburgh jumped all over the Islanders at home in a 5-0
victory in Game 1, and then scratched and clawed all the way to
escape with a 5-4 overtime win Sunday on the road in Game 3.

In between, the Islanders rallied for a win in Game 2. The
Nassau Coliseum was rocking Sunday, but New York couldn’t ride the
wave of emotion to a win, despite holding an early 2-0 lead.

”There were emotional rides in the game,” Penguins coach Dan
Bylsma said Monday. ”They came out with a surge and we turned a
turnover right into a goal.

”I can’t say we handled it well. We got off to two goals
against and led them feed off some speed and energy. From the time
we got here, the atmosphere in the building, our players were
really excited about the atmosphere here. It was pretty crazy. They
chanted from before warm-ups, during warm-ups, during the game. Our
guys were really excited about playing in front of that type of
atmosphere. That’s what it’s all about.”

Bylsma allowed himself to smile while recalling Sunday’s scene.
It was easier because his team erased the early hole and led 3-2
before the first period was over. Even blowing a two-goal lead of
their own in the third period didn’t seem so bad once Crosby set up
Chris Kunitz for the Penguins’ third power-play goal of the game in
overtime.

”It’s playoff hockey, and we haven’t been in this building for
playoff games before,” Bylsma said. ”It was an awesome crowd.
They were great and were energized right from the start. (The
Islanders) used it and they got on top and they came with a lot of
speed. We need to do a better job.”

That was also the message on the Islanders’ side of the hallway.
New York now faces the task of shaking off the deflating defeat in
time for Game 4. A win in that one and the Islanders are back even.
A loss, and suddenly summer vacation becomes a whole lot closer to
reality.

”Our penalty kill has to be better. The best way to do that is
to stay out of the box,” Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald
said. ”Those can end up killing us.”

With the Penguins’ power play operating at a supremely high
level, connecting six times in 13 opportunities in the series, the
Islanders must cut down on the penalties they are committing, and
figure out a way to slow down Pittsburgh when there is an advantage
to be killed.

”We’ve got to be more disciplined. No question,” Islanders
coach Jack Capuano said. ”The penalty kill is something we’ve got
to clean up. But discipline with and without the puck is a big part
of the game, and with their quickness we’ve got to make sure we
defend a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”

Iginla has smoothly fit in with the Penguins, who are seeking
their second Cup title in five seasons. His experience, scoring
touch, and toughness are all positives for Pittsburgh at this time
of year.

”He’s brought a quiet confidence to our room right off the
hop,” Bylsma said. ”He hasn’t been a guy who stepped right in and
started screaming and yelling and rah-rah. We had some injuries and
we had some different lineups, and we went on the road and he
really developed into a go-to guy on the power play that was a
weapon. He has continued to be that for our team.

”It gives us a different dimension to our team that maybe we
didn’t have before, with that type of shot. He’s got a fierce edge
that he plays the game with. He has brought that to our team. When
you are down there on the ice with him, you certainly know it and
see it.”

The Penguins have six power-play goals and eight at even
strength. While they are enjoying how well their special teams are
performing, they are well aware that 5-on-5 play will likely be the
deciding factor.

”We can’t just rely on power-play goals or fortunate bounces,”
defenseman Paul Martin said. ”We have to make sure that we’re
taking the game to them and playing the way that we play to feel
more confident in our game.”