Perhaps a little overlooked while their local rival's desperately battle for the playoffs, the New York Islanders will tangle with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the brawl-filled, 9-3 Isles win at the Coliseum in February, a game that was only a trident away from a gladiator fight. So, what's on tap for the encore? Here are three things to watch for when the Pens skate at the Coliseum tonight.
Whenever Gillies is on the ice, he bares watching Friday night. After a suspension-worthy hit against the Pens' Eric Tangradi -- who has not played since suffering the blow to the head on Feb. 11 -- Gillies figures to be a marked man. It's doubtful he'll be caught flat-footed however, as earlier in the week offered his take on Friday night's potential powder keg: "If the bell needs to be answered, we've got the guys to answer it."
There's no way the Penguins have forgotten about the previous game, but playoff-bound Pittsburgh has far more at stake Friday night. First is playoff position, where they're currently chasing the Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia Flyers -- and the automatic top-3 seed -- by a single point. Second, is health. The Penguins have already lost Evgeni Malkin for the season. It's looking less and less likely that Sidney Crosby will return this season after suffering a concussion. Do they really want to risk losing anyone else by inciting a fight-filled affair? We'll find out.
Michael Grabner leads the Islanders with eight goals and 13 points since March 1. Will that be enough to earn him the Calder Trophy for the NHL's rookie of the year? It seems like San Jose Sharks rook Logan Couture is the odds-on favorite to win the award, but maybe a final flourish can sway some hearts and minds. Regardless, Grabner has been a stellar find for the Isles and joins a steadily improving core for next season.