PITTSBURGH -- Speaking for the first time since being named the Pittsburgh Penguins' starting goaltender, Tomas Vokoun
had about him a sense of calmness.
This is exactly what the Penguins are looking for.
The Penguins appear slightly rattled by the reality of finding themselves in a three-game series with the New York Islanders, with the team that wins two of the next three games moving on to the second round of the playoffs.
In fact, the Penguins' coaching staff is considering making a number of moves before the pivotal Game 5
on Thursday night.
It has already been announced that Vokoun -- not Marc-Andre Fleury, the longtime starter -- will play
against the Islanders. But there could be even more changes coming.
The Penguins are considering inserting rookie Simon Despres in place of veteran Mark Eaton, who has struggled against the quick Islanders.
Also, the Penguins practised on Thursday morning with a fourth line that included Craig Adams, Joe Vitale and Tyler Kennedy. Only Adams has played in this series, and if what was practised Thursday morning is used in Game 5, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Tanner Glass would be out of the lineup.
The Penguins have also switched James Neal and Jarome Iginla so that Iginla is playing right wing beside centre Evgeni Malkin. Iginla has been a right wing almost exclusively throughout his NHL career and has not looked comfortable playing on Malkin's left side. However, Iginla isn't the type to complain and has been more than willing to side with whichever lineup coach Dan Bylsma opts for.
The Islanders, meanwhile, will use essentially the same lineup as in Game 4, which saw them emerge with a 6-4 victory
. However, defenceman Andy McDonald, one of their best contributors during this series
, is out with an upper-body injury. He will be replaced in the Islanders' top four by defenceman Brian Strait, whom New York claimed off waivers from the Penguins earlier this season.
While Consol Energy Center felt like a funeral parlour on Wednesday after the team arrived from New York, a more upbeat feeling was evident in the Penguins' locker room Thursday morning. Almost every player -- except for, notably, Fleury -- had a smile on his face following the pre-game skate. Sidney Crosby, who has six points in three games during this series, seemed in a particularly laid-back mood.
That said, there remains enormous pressure on the Penguins to emerge with a victory in this series. They are the prohibitive favorite to win the Eastern Conference and the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. Iginla actually mentioned on Wednesday that this adversity early in the post-season can be a good thing for the Penguins.
Of course, it's only a good thing for the Penguins if they're able to escape this series against the pesky Islanders. So far, nothing has come easily for the favorites.
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