The New York Islanders didn’t love the hit that Mike Matheson had on Mathew Barzal in Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it doesn’t look like they’re focused on holding a grudge.
The Islanders appeared to be focused more on picking up the win than any sort of retribution when they face Pittsburgh tonight. Pittsburgh defeated the Islanders 4-1 on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
It was the third period hit by Matheson that the Islanders took issue with on Thursday. Barzal was playing the puck near the corner and turned when Matheson crosschecked him sending Barzal headfirst into the boards.
The Islanders star said that he was sore for a couple of minutes after the game, but that he was fine.
“I didn’t put myself in a great spot,” Barzal said about the hit. “I never liked the crosscheck to the numbers, but I do feel like I did turn into him a bit and the onus is on me as much as it is on him, but I have to put myself in a better position there.”
While the Islanders don’t appear to be looking for a fight tonight, the hit and the reaction to it highlights the bad blood that is bubbling between the two sides. Tonight’s game will be their fourth meeting this month alone and there are still two more games in the month of February scheduled between New York and Pittsburgh.
The frequent meetings have certainly built up the familiarity and dislike between the two sides.
“We’ve played these guys quite a bit this month,” Casey Cizikas said. “Whenever you play a team that many times you’re going to see games get more chippy, more physical and that’s just the nature of the game. That’s what we love as hockey players is the competitiveness from both teams. We’re going to play hard, we’re going to play physical, but we’re going to be smart at the same time.”
🎥 Cizikas & Barzal Pregame Media Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/x9KcuSTF9d
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 20, 2021
The nastiness started early on Thursday when Casey Cizikas dropped the gloves with Brandon Tanev. The fight stemmed from something that happened in the previous meeting between the Islanders and Penguins.
However, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz isn’t concerned that his squad will let their emotions get the better of them.
“I think the guys recognize those moments. Sometimes emotions can go overboard a little bit and get the better of you,” Trotz said. “But I think for the most part we have a veteran team and I have to trust that the veteran group understands the importance of these four-point games. If you look at the standings tonight is a huge game for both teams.”
The Islanders are two points ahead of Pittsburgh in the East Division Standings and a win would help keep New York in the top four of the division.
To counter a talented Pittsburgh team, the Islanders will have everyone except for Michael Dal Colle available to play tonight. Dal Colle was hurt blocking a shot during the Islanders game in Buffalo on Tuesday.
While Trotz didn’t say who would be in the lineup tonight, he made it sound as though Kieffer Bellows would not get another chance after a rough game on Thursday.
🎥 Barry Trotz Media Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/F3b7EqsCvV
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 19, 2021
“The season is so short there’s not a lot of room to wait for guys,” Trotz said. “Obviously you’re going to wait for a few of your key guys to get going, but if you’re a fringe player or a depth player or you’re on the taxi squad and you get an opportunity to jump in, you just have to get the job done. There’s not going to be any (leeway). There’s not a long leash there.”
Trotz didn’t say which of his goaltenders would get the start, but Semyon Varlamov is expected to be back in net. Tristian Jarry will get the start for Pittsburgh.
New York Islanders Lineup (Projected)
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Leo Komarov — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Pittsburgh Penguins Lineup (Projected)
Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker — Evgeni Malkin — Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brandon Tanev
Drew O’Connor — Mark Jankowski — Sam Lafferty
Pierre-Olivier Joseph — Kris Letang
Mike Matheson — John Marino
Marcus Pettersson — Cody Ceci
How to watch
Tonight’s game will air on MSG+ and stream on MSG Go or on NHL.TV outside of the New York market. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 98.7 FM ESPN New York, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.