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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Penguins

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
As the Winter Classic approaches, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to be the subject of the documentary film series “24/7” on HBO. But before the New Year arrives, the New York Islanders get to be part of that spotlight as they prepare to take on the Penguins at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.

“I watched the first episode but I haven’t watched the second one yet,” Islanders forward PA Parenteau said. “I think it’s good for the game and it’s big in the USA, so a lot of people are going to see what this game is all about.”

The Islanders-Penguins matchup should be a good game as the Oct. 15 meeting, in the midst of one the Islanders best records to start a season (4-1-2) ended in a 3-2 overtime decision in favor of the Penguins, with Rick DiPietro in goal at CONSOL Energy Center.

Yannick Weber #68 of the Montreal Candiens pursues Blake Comeau #57 of the New York Islanders on December 26, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
But after more than a month of painful losses, the Islanders are starting to regain that momentum and confidence that characterized their play at the start of the season. As a result, they’ve posted a 4-1-1 record in their last six games.
“I just think we have the attitude back where we feel like we can win no matter who we are playing, which is something that we have to keep doing,” Islanders forward Blake Comeau said. “Going out and believing in ourselves is important. If something doesn’t go our way or if we get scored on, we have to stay positive with each other and we have to keep on track with what we are doing.”

Parenteau agreed, “It builds confidence. This game is all about confidence. When you hit that (losing) stretch that we had, you don’t have any confidence and you get low on yourself, but in these last 5 games we were playing better, making plays, and getting pucks to the net most importantly. I think that was the big difference.”

Even though the Islanders are playing with a newfound confidence, they know that Wednesday night’s game will be one of their toughest battles. The Penguins have fire power unmatched by most teams. Less than half way through the 2010-11 season, they are already halfway to the 100 point mark, leading the Eastern Conference with 50 points.

While the Islanders last regulation win over the Penguins came more than a year ago (last Nov. 27), it will be up to the Islanders to shut them down offensively. Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby has recorded at least one point in his last 24 games, holding an active record, dating back to the 1992-93 season when Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques recorded a 30-game point streak.

“We just have to play structured hockey,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “If we do that, good defense will lead to good offense and we just have to make sure that we manage the puck correctly. We have to know who we are out against, obviously their top six are very dangerous, but we want to make it a 200 foot game and make them earn everything.”

But that will be hard. The Islanders struggled in their matchup with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Dwayne Roloson faced 52 shots and the Islanders eventually lost 7-2.

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders skates against Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on April 11, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“(Monday) night we didn’t have our legs, as a bunch of guys we didn’t play very well,” Parenteau said. “But its going to be a different story (Wednesday) night. It’s a big game for us and we have been playing really well at home lately. And we are pretty confident even though we didn’t play a good game (Monday) night.”

Even though the Islanders lost, John Tavares extended his point streak to a career-best six games; Parenteau, Comeau and Rob Schremp all earned points, extending their streaks and increasing their point totals to 21 points each, for most on the team.

With Parenteau’s goal, he has recorded six points in his last six games. With Schremp’s goal, he has posted 11 points in the month of December, recording points in all but three games. And Comeau has 10 points through December; he was on the ice with Schremp for nine of them.

With multiple players on point streaks and the Islanders recent slew of wins, Comeau said a win over the first place in the Eastern Conference Penguins could be a huge confidence booster.

“We need everyone to step up,” Comeau said. “I think our defense has been doing a good job, but we need our forwards to contribute a bit more and get pucks out when we can. Obviously they are a high scoring team who is playing really well, so it’s a big game for us. If we can come out and win, it would be a big confidence booster.”
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