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, N.Y. — The first game of the season between the
New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets matches two Metropolitan Division
contenders in a clash that could certainly impact the playoff picture come
April.But everyone knows the main attraction Saturday night will not be the
teams but the building in which they’re playing.The Islanders make their
long-awaited return to Nassau Coliseum, which was the franchise’s home from the
team’s debut in 1972 until the spring of 2015, when they host the Blue
Jackets.Article continues below ...Both teams were off Friday after playing
Thursday, when the Islanders fell to the host Boston Bruins 2-1 in a shootout
and the Blue Jackets beat the visiting Minnesota Wild 4-2.The Blue Jackets
(15-8-2) and Islanders (12-9-3) will enter Saturday separated by just five
points. But the standings will be secondary for the first of the Islanders’ 21
scheduled games at their new/old home.As Islanders coach Barry Trotz walked into
his post-practice press conference Friday afternoon, he began talking about the
Coliseum before he even fielded a question.“It’s home,” Trotz said. “Guys are
excited. They did a good job. Looking forward to tomorrow. I think everybody
is.”Well, maybe not everybody. In typical John Tortorella fashion, the Blue
Jackets head coach — who spent dozens of nights in the cramped bowels of the
Coliseum as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers — was
decidedly less nostalgic when talking about the Coliseum earlier Friday.“I’m
anxious to see the renovations,” Tortorella told reporters in Columbus. “I hope
they put, in the coaches’ room Matt
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, instead of a 40-watt bulb, they put in maybe a
75-watt bulb because you couldn’t see.”Everyone figured Nassau Coliseum — long a
relic among NHL arenas for reasons well beyond its damp and darkened locker
rooms — was finally and officially a thing of the past when the Islanders moved
to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.But Islanders fans, most
of whom reside on Long Island, never warmed to the idea of taking oft-delayed
trains or enduring traffic jam-filled commutes to Brooklyn. Nor did they enjoy
the lack of atmosphere at Barclays Center, which was built for basketball and
“features” an off-center scoreboard as well as thousands of obstructed view
seats behind one of the goals.In three-plus seasons at Barclays Center, the
Islanders have never ranked higher than 28th in the NHL in average
attendance.Nor did players, most of whom also reside on Long Island, ever really
embrace the commute or the substandard conditions. The Barclays ice is known as
the softest in the league because the building is heated by plastic pipes, not
metal pipes, and to refit the building with metal pipes would require closing
the arena during the summer concert season.The Islanders began plotting their
return to Long Island last December ,
when owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin won a bid to build an arena on state
land currently housing the Belmont race track at the Nassau/Queens border.In
January, the Islanders announced they would split their schedules between
Barclays Center and a refurbished Nassau Coliseum, which is operated by the same
management company as Barclays Center, until they are ready to move into the new
arena at the start of the 2021-22 season.While nothing is official, it is widely
believed the Islanders will play their entire home schedule at the Coliseum
starting next season. The new Coliseum only seats 13,000, but a packed Coliseum
will look much better than a nearly-empty Barclays, where this year’s average
announced attendance of 10,447 said one thing and the eye test scanning acres of
empty seats said another.“I think the guys that have played in this building
have really great memories of it,” Trotz said. “I think everybody recognizes
that it has great significance on the Island and for its fan base.”There’s a
little bit of serendipity to Saturday’s festivities. The Blue Jackets were the
opponent for the Islanders’ supposed regular-season finale at the Coliseum on
April 11 Womens
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, 2015, when Columbus posted a 5-4 shootout
victory.And Trotz, in his first year as New York’s head coach, was the head
coach for the Washington Capitals during the supposed final game at the Coliseum
on April 25, 2015, when the Islanders extended an Eastern Conference
quarterfinal series to a decisive seventh game with a 3-1 win.Cal Clutterbuck,
who iced that win with an empty-netter in the final minute, is one of nine
players from that team still with the Islanders. “I remember being at the press
conference (at the Coliseum) for the Belmont announcement and talking about
potentially coming back here for some games and here we are,” Clutterbuck said.
“So it’s exciting.” NEW YORK (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots to lead
the surging New York Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on
Monday night.Filip Chytil and Brett Howden scored to help Lundqvist get his
437th career win, tying Jacque Plante for seventh place on the NHL’s all-time
list. The Rangers improved to 6-0-1 in the last seven.Lundqvist made two big
saves on Vancouver’s rookie sensation Elias Pettersson in the closing seconds to
preserve the win.Nikolay Goldobin scored and Jacob Markstrom made 25 saves for
the Canucks Phil
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, who snapped a six-game point streak (4-0-2).The
19-year-old Chytil tied the score 1-1 with 7:18 left in the second on a rebound
from the left side for his first of the season. The 20-yearHowden got the
game-winner with 8:41 left in the third when he snapped a wrist shot past
Markstrom.HURRICANES 3, BLACKHAWKS 2, OTRALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sebastian Aho
scored 1:16 into overtime and Carolina spoiled Cam Ward’s emotional return to
Raleigh.Teuvo Teravainen and Micheal Ferland scored power-play goals 66 seconds
apart late in the second period for Carolina, which has earned points in three
straight and beat Chicago for the second time in four nights.Ward stopped 37
shots in his return to PNC Arena, Jonathan Toews scored a deflected goal and
Alex DeBrincat added a goal, but the Blackhawks lost their eighth
straight.Carolina’s Scott Darling made 33 saves against his former team, in
regulation coming up with a slick glove save to stop Patrick Kane on a 2-on-1
and making a left pad save to stop Nick Schmaltz on a breakaway.Aho’s winner
came after he took a pass at the blue line, then skated in before drifting
across the net and beating Ward with a wrist shot.BLUE JACKETS 2, STARS 1DALLAS
(AP) — Pierre-Luc Dubois scored midway through the third period to lift
Metropolitan Division-leading Columbus.Dubois took a pass from Cam Atkinson
behind the net and backhanded the puck under the crossbar with 9:39 left for his
eighth goal.Atkinson had scored the game’s first goal in the second
period.Alexander Radulov Sidney
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, who returned to the Stars‘ lineup, tied the game in
the second period.The Blue Jackets extended their points streak to five games
(3-0-2) and are two points ahead of the New York Rangers in the division.
Columbus has won its last seven games against the Stars.Dallas maintained fourth
place in the Central Division.Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Dallas’ Anton
Khubodin each had 26 saves.DUCKS 2, PREDATORS 1, SOANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Pontus
Aberg and Rickard Rakell scored in the shootout, John Gibson made 34 saves and
the Ducks dealt Nashville its first road loss of the year.Rakell scored in the
fourth round of the shootout to give the Ducks the 2-1 lead. Gibson then stopped
Kevin Fiala for the win.Ryan Getzlaf scored in regulation for Anaheim, which
improved to 2-2 in shootouts.Fiala scored in regulation and Kyle Turris in the
shootout for Nashville, which had a five-game winning streak snapped. Pekka
Rinne made 29 saves. It was the Predators‘ first shootout of the season.
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