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.”