Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penguins Feel the Difference

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penguins Feel the Difference

Article excerpt

A day after the Penguins opened their second-round playoff series against Ottawa with a 4-1 win, center Joe Vitale could tell this was a different opponent from the team they beat in the first round, the New York Islanders.

Actually, Vitale could feel the difference.

"My body's a little more sore today than last time," Vitale said Wednesday after he and most others who played in Game 1 sat out an optional practice.

Vitale got pummeled several times in Game 1, at least a couple of times by rugged Senators forward Chris Neil.

"You give a few; you take a few," Vitale said. "That's just part of the game. I definitely took a little more than I gave [in Game 1]. Hopefully, it will be different come Friday [in Game 2]."

Perhaps Vitale's personal hit sheet will be more balanced, but he got his licks in Tuesday, registering three hits, and the Penguins came out ahead in that category. They finished with 40 hits to Ottawa's 26. Wingers Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke led with five each for the Penguins. Neil had that many for Ottawa.

Coach Dan Bylsma downplayed those numbers. He said the Penguins keep their own hits statistics. He did not say how many his team had on the internal ledgers but said his players did a better job of dishing out hits in the first period than later in the game.

The series is not likely to turn into some sort of hockey version of flag football, so the Penguins will need to keep hitting.

"They've got some big bodies. They go out and bang and crash," said Penguins center Brandon Sutter, who, along with center Evgeni Malkin, was one of two Penguins who did not register a hit in Game 1.

"But I think we did a good job of doing that, too. We expect a physical series. At the same time, they're a team that can skate and move the puck well."

The Penguins have those players, too. So did the Islanders, but the physical play is what could very well make this series different.

"They play a physical game," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said of the Senators. …

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