What is Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek
’s strategy for shutting down his younger brother, Senators forward Milan Michalek, in tonight’s game?
Stuff him full of turkey to slow him down.
“Yeah, the turkey was pretty good so hopefully I’ll be able to keep going tonight,” joked Milan, who ate a delicious Thanksgiving dinner cooked by his brother’s wife on Thursday.
Although they talk on the phone constantly and keep up with each other’s games, both players enjoyed getting some quality time together after a few months apart. And they’re certainly looking forward to the challenge that facing off presents with their contrasting styles of play.
“It’s always a special game for both of us,” Zbynek said. “It’s especially nice to see him after a long time and spend some time with him before the game.”
“But once we hit the ice, it’s business as usual,” he continued. “I want to win, he wants to win so we’ll do our best for our teams in order to do that. It’s always nice to see him and it’s always a big challenge to face him because he’s a good player and I’m a defensive player so I want to stop him.”
The Michaleks have carved two completely different niches in the league for themselves. Zbynek, 28, entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Minnesota in 2003 and has since become one of the NHL’s premier shutdown defenseman – playing his milestone 500th game on Wednesday vs. St. Louis.
“I’m really proud of him,” Milan said. “He had a long way to go and he did it the hard way. He does everything right. He’s one of the best defensive defensemen in the league right now, so I’m happy for him.”
Milan, meanwhile, is a big, strong and skilled forward who was the sixth-overall pick by San Jose in the 2003 NHL Draft. The 26-year-old enters tonight’s game on a red-hot pace with 12 goals through 21 games.
Zbynek’s turkey strategy aside, shutting down his red-hot brother presents a huge challenge for the Penguins blueliner.
“He’s one of the better players in the league, especially this year he’s playing well and it’s going to be a challenge to stop him," Zbynek said. "Like on the street (when we were kids).”
While both Zbynek and Milan will be battling for the win, their parents, on the other hand, will be hoping the game stretches to overtime so both sons get at least a point.
“They just cheer for both of us,” Milan smiled. “They always say, go to overtime and then we don’t care who wins. But yeah, they love it when we play against each other and they’re going to be watching, for sure.”