This could be trouble. No, not because of any fisticuffs or extracurricular activity aimed at a certain captain returning to the lineup. Just because it's the worst time to face a division foe.
The Pens have to pick themselves back up off the mat. Very good hockey teams do not often find themselves in a three-game (and climbing) losing streak. Stopping it at two games is a must.
One would think that the energy in the building tonight could help the team, but it also could leave the players unfocused. The temptation certainly will be there to watch Sid from afar, even if you are on the ice.
The Islanders certainly will not be looking to cut the Penguins any breaks. Expect them to bring their best, or their worst, depending on who you are rooting for.
That is an extra reason tonight will be special. This is not only about Sid going out there; it is about NHL competition. The Islanders are just as much a part of tonight's story as Sid is.
Zbynek Michalek makes a much less ballyhooed return to the Penguins lineup tonight. Any night that you return your best player and your best defender in to the lineup is a pretty darn good one.
In addition to the Pens defenseman struggling of late, the forwards have been making some costly gaffes as well. A good example was the Brian Campbell goal Saturday.
Both Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis could or should have accounted for Campbell to make it more difficult. That and Brent Johnson's ole save attempt made this an easy goal.
It did not have to be that way. The Penguins have to get back to focusing and knowing their personal assignments in situational hockey.
Just because this goal was not Marc-Andre Fleury letting in a "softie" does not mean that it should escape criticism.
What better way to end a losing streak than to have your goalie steal one? MAF is certainly capable of that.
A slightly modified/updated version of a stat put out there by Bob Grove of the Pens Radio Network from last week: Since being benched November 6, 2010, in Phoenix, Marc-Andre Fleury is 45-17-6.
Right now the combo of Evgeni Malkin, Steve Sullivan and James Neal is the team's top line. When times are tough, they have to put up points. Do not just rely on Sid to do everything.
The power play has been looking worse lately. I am near certain that nobody is fooled by the now standard fake shot/forced pass by Steve Sullivan or Kris Letang to Evgeni Malkin.
The team has to keep the power play fresh in ideas. The players on the ice are too talented to try to do the same thing over and over again in the video age.
Jordan Staal tallied his 10th goal of the season the other night. Funny that when he scores, nobody is all that critical of him.
Yes, the offensive part of his game is great to see and easy to understand. Remember that even if/when Staalsy goes back into his shell, the work he does at the dots and in the defensive zone still make him a great player.
That being said, if/when Staal realizes his offensive potential on a consistent basis, it will be a dark day for the rest of the league.