Chances of February Penguins-Islanders fight night repeat unlikely

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Could hard feelings resurface when the Penguins play the Islanders tonight on Long Island?

Sure, but the Penguins aren't expecting anything like the Feb. 11 debacle there.

That game, a 9-3 Islanders win, got completely out of control, with 346 penalty minutes, three subsequent suspensions and behavior so bad that Penguins owner Mario Lemieux issued a scathing statement calling it a "sideshow" and threatening to distance himself from the NHL.

"A game like that probably won't ever happen [again]," center Jordan Staal said Monday before the Penguins flew to New York. "Obviously it was a little over the top.

"There's still the rivalry. Things can happen. But I can't see anything like that happen again."

The teams already have had a rematch at Nassau Coliseum, a 4-3 Penguins shootout win April 8.

Some scores were settled with a couple of fights in the first period and 79 penalty minutes, but it was nothing like the Feb. 11 spectacle.

Winger James Neal joined the Penguins by trade between those two games and figures if there was going to be a sequel, "it would have been that [April 8] game. It's over. Over and done with."

Just in case it isn't, or a new chapter gets written tonight, the teams meet again Thursday at Consol Energy Center.

Unusual practice

Having a day for an hour-long practice was something out of the ordinary for the Penguins, who opened the season with 10 games in 17 days before getting a day off Sunday.

Coach Dan Bylsma had a surprise waiting for the players at Consol Energy Center. He opened practice with an unorthodox, full-team scrimmage.

Players had to stickhandle, pass and shoot with their off hand, there were two pucks in play, and the goaltenders didn't get to use their sticks.

"It's a warm-up drill after a day off where we've played a lot of hockey," Bylsma said.

"A little bit of competition, lighten the mood in a different sort of way. Some guys are better than others with the off hand, and some guys you laugh at."

Center Sidney Crosby, shooting right-handed, got the first goal. Others followed.

A small survey of players indicated an appreciation for winger Pascal Dupuis' shot using his off hand, his right. Others struggled.

"I'm awful," Neal said. "It's so weird skating around with the wrong-handed stick."

New ironman

When defenseman Kris Letang missed two games last week because of an NHL suspension, he forfeited the title of Penguins ironman. He had played in 145 consecutive games.

The designation then fell to forward Craig Adams, who has played in 86 games in a row dating to Oct. 18, 2010, following two games in which he was a healthy scratch.

"That's not a very long stretch to have for the longest guy," Adams said. "It just goes to show that pretty much everyone in here has dealt with some sort of injury or something in the past year.

"Usually you have someone a lot longer than that."

Tip-ins

Steve Mears will step in and do the radio play-by-play tonight with analyst Phil Bourque. Longtime broadcaster Mike Lange was excused because of a family celebration. He will return to the radio booth Thursday. ... Bylsma will be coaching his 200th NHL game. He is 120-58-21, all with the Penguins. His first game also was on Long Island, a 3-2 shootout loss Feb. 16, 2009.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly .


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