NEW YORK — Nostalgia will be in the air Tuesday night when the New York Islanders host the Florida Panthers at Barclays Center in the first game for both teams after the NHL’s four-day break for the All-Star Game.
Both the Islanders and Panthers last played Thursday, the final day before the All-Star break. Visiting New York became the first team to sweep the season series from the expansion Vegas Golden Knights with a 2-1 win and host Florida dropped its third straight game by falling 4-2 to the Washington Capitals.
The Islanders (25-20-5) entered the break by getting five of six points on a three-game road trip to move within one point of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, who occupy the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots.
The good news for Islanders fans continued Monday, when it was announced the team will play 60 home games at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum in a three-season span beginning this fall as the franchise’s new home is built at Belmont Park on the Queens/Nassau border.
The other home games will be played at Barclays Center, whose parent company recently renovated Nassau Coliseum and continues to own and operate the facility.
The Islanders spent their first 42 seasons at Nassau Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn in 2015, but fans have been displeased by the long commute and players have not liked the poor ice conditions at Barclays.
So the unusual two-home alignment appeals to everyone, even if the new Coliseum’s amenities (the facility seats fewer than 14,000 and features only a handful of luxury suites) make it untenable as a long-term home for an NHL team.
“We’re excited about Belmont, but you have to build the place,” Islanders coach Doug Weight told reporters after practice later Monday. “This is the best-case scenario for us.
“Do you want to snap your fingers and be in a new building? Who doesn’t? But that’s now how it’s going to play out, but I’m very excited about (it).”
Another reunion will take place Tuesday when Panthers assistant coach and former Islanders head coach Jack Capuano returns to Barclays Center for the first time since he was fired and replaced by Weight last January.
Capuano coached the Islanders for parts of seven seasons, the second-longest tenure in franchise history behind only Hall of Famer Al Arbour.
Under Capuano, the Islanders won their first playoff series in 23 years in April 2016, when they beat the Florida Panthers in a six-game Eastern Conference quarterfinal clash capped by John Tavares’ series-clinching double-overtime goal.
“It was a great series, a hard-fought series, could’ve went either way,” Capuano told reporters in December when the Islanders visited the Panthers in the first game this season between the teams. “And fortunately ’91 did what he usually does and came up with a big goal.”
Unlike the Islanders, the Panthers (19-22-6) open the second half of the season with barely existent playoff hopes. Florida is 12 points out of the wild-card race and 17 points behind the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.