They pretty much know what the other side is trying to do, although the Penguins have talked enough about the Islanders' speed and about their own defensive lapses that it's possible Pittsburgh will make a strategic adjustment beyond the blatantly obvious move to get a rattled Marc-Andre Fleury out of there.
Perhaps hoping to make it yesterday's story, the Pens announced on Wednesday that Tomas Vokoun would replace Fleury for Game 5.
The Islanders, as they so often do on gamedays, did not tip which defenseman would be in the lineup to replace the injured Andrew MacDonald. Reporters on the scene had to play the "who's on last?" game from the morning skate:
Arthur Staple of Newsday: "Martinek off early from skate. Appears he's in. Hickey and Carkner still on ice."
If only teams realized that the content of each fan's day depends on knowing these decisions and knowing them now, now, NOW.
In his preview, Crygalis also reported MacDonald is supposed to miss six to eight weeks with surgery on his broken hand. So it would be miraculous if he made it back in time for the Cup finals. ;)
While we fret over who is where until game time, the more interesting question to me is something touched on after Game 4: What will the pairings be?
Because no matter who is better as an overall player (promising Thomas Hickey vs. aging Radek Martinek vs. limited Matt Carkner), the big question is who fills in next to Travis Hamonic for the Islanders' tough-matchup pair. That won't be a guy who steps into the lineup from the pressbox.
So the decision is not just who fills AMac's spot, it's also who fills the spot vacated by AMac's replacement? MacDonald has been an ironman for the Isles. This is new territory.
Pittsburgh: New goalie, also a new D-man?
Meanwhile, the Penguins appear to have identified another problem very familiar to Islanders fans: Mark Eaton.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have almost certainly upgraded in goal, though there is always the "rust" question since Vokoun hasn't played since April 22. But Vokoun was good for Pittsburgh down the stretch, a factor in their 15-game win streak this season, and, of course, a good performer against the Islanders.
His last game against the Isles, he earned a 35-save shutout. In fact, this season he beat the Islanders three times, posting a .970 save percentage on 101 shots, allowing just three goals including his mop-up relief of Fleury in the Islanders' only regular season win.
For his career against the Islanders, he has 25 starts and is 17-7-0 with a .937 save percentage. Granted, his career has been long, and the 36-year-old isn't quite what he once was. But what he is still could make the difference in Game 5.
Stuck in Florida for so many years, this is Vokoun's first playoff appearance in six season. (Question for the keepers of cliches: Does "playoff experience" wear off due to lack of use?) Ironically, that last experience was a five-game Predators loss to Evgeni Nabokov and the San Jose Sharks.
Different times, those.
The Islanders gameday blog has lots of quotes and pics from the morning skate. Among the best...
Travis Hamonic on a new partner:
You have to do a lot of talking. You have to get accustomed to each other as fast as possible. ... It gives someone a chance to forge their own path and step up here.
No matter what we do or how we start the game, it's how we finish. Our mindset can't change. We can't focus on one individual. We have to focus on their entire team and how we play. We're facing a team that can strike quick. ... We have to make sure we stress the importance of how we play and how hard we have to defend against Pittsburgh.
Tonight, the Islanders are all grown up on radio. The WRHU broadcast on 88.7 will also air on ESPN Radio New York's 98.7 FM, which means more poor saps stuck in their car or otherwise confined to radio will get access to the game.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for Game 5 in this thread.
Thus far I've heard of another watch party for Brooklyn fans at O'Keefe's Bar at 62 Court St., happy hour prices for NYC fans in Isles gear at Common Ground on Avenue A between 12th and 13th. As always, feel free to use comments or FanShots to chat up where you'll be gathering.
Official start is 7 p.m. EDT. Televised nationally on TSN and NBC Sports, locally on MSG+.
It's down to best-of-three now. Hang on tight.