The Islanders will play their second road game of the 2010-11 season Friday night at the brand new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh when they faceoff against the Penguins for the first of six meetings this season. This year is a new year for the Islanders who are hoping to turn their record around from 1-3-2 last season.
The Penguins will be desperate for a win as they are 0-3-0 at home this season. That’s definitely going to make the contest a bit tougher, seeing as the Islanders have lost 11 of the last 12 road contests between the teams.
Despite a 2-1 loss to the Capitals on Wednesday, the Islanders still outworked the team from the Nation’s Capital in the first and third periods. In the final minutes of the game, Islanders forwards Frans Nielsen
, Matt Moulson
and Michael Grabner
all had solid chances to bury the puck as they outshot the Capitals 12-6 that period.
The Islanders also fought it out with the Stars and the Rangers to earn three points in their first two contests by outshooting their opponents by a combined 35-13 in the third period. After practice at Iceworks on Tuesday, Islanders defenseman Mark Eaton
said that coming out with more angst in the third period isn’t necessarily the best way to play a game.
“We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation,” Eaton said. “Hopefully we perform better in the first two periods to where we can build on leads instead of trying to come back from deficits, but when we are down, that’s the kind of effort we expect. We need to do that game in and game out because you have to scratch and claw for every point in this league.”
“A lot of times it’s one or two points down the stretch that means the difference between being in the ninth spot or being in the eighth spot (of the playoffs),” Eaton continued. “So every point is important, whether it be in October or April. Those first two games are character builders and show that when we’re in that situation we shouldn’t doubt ourselves and that we can find a way to come back and win.”
Every point is important, whether it be in October or April. Those first two games are character builders and show that when we’re in that situation we shouldn’t doubt ourselves and that we can find a way to come back and win. - Mark Eaton
The Islanders need to concentrate on playing strong for a full 60 minutes. They came close on Wednesday night, keeping the Capitals at bay for 36:55, until Alexander Ovechkin scored the game-tying goal at 18:19.
While the Islanders held the lead for close to two full periods, they made quite a few mistakes in the second period, which eventually cost them on a defensive turnover leading to Ovechkin’s game-tying goal.
“I loved that third period and I thought we had pretty much the same in the first,” said Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. “The second period got away from us… we spent most of our time in our zone mostly because of the plays with the puck and the turnover situations we thought we had time to make plays. We were just too deliberate and slow in moving it and that was the difference in the third period.”
Eaton had a positive outlook on the number of games the team is playing on the road this month, as only three of the Islanders next 14 games will be played at home.
“A lot of times, a road trip like that early in the season is pretty good because it gives guys a chance to bond,” Eaton said. “There’s a lot more going out to dinners as a team and every season there’s new faces (in the locker room), so it gives guys like me a chance to get to know teammates a little better and get away and bond a little bit. So road trips like this, early in the season, can be good for a team and we’re looking forward to it. We’re off to a fairly good start at home and we’re looking to carry that momentum over to the road.”
As a member of their 2008-09 Stanley Cup Championship team, Eaton played in 218 games with the Penguins over the past four seasons. While with the club, the Wilmington, Delaware native tallied seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points and 82 penalty minutes – establishing himself as a top-six defenseman by averaging 19:45 on the ice last year.
And while he knows what his current teammates will be up against, he’s mostly looking forward to playing against his former team.
“I’ve played with a lot of those guys for four years,” Eaton said of the Penguins lineup. “To be able to see the new arena should be fun. It’s always fun to play against a former team. There’s always a little extra added incentive and a lot of times you play your best games against former teams.”