It took a year before Al Arbour was able to turn the New York Islanders into a winning team. Ted Nolan is ahead of that schedule, but it's going to take much more to come close to matching Arbour's legacy.
Arbour, who won four Stanley Cup titles with the Islanders, will return for one night to reach 1,500 career games as New York hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
Arbour took over as coach of New York in 1973-74, finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference with 56 points that season. The following year, he made the first of 12 straight playoff appearances that included five trips to the Stanley Cup finals.
The Islanders will honor Arbour on Saturday by giving him a chance to coach his 1,500th game with the team. That total and his 739 career wins with New York are the most ever by one coach with one team.
"For all that the coach has done for our franchise, we are going to give Al and his family a night they will never forget," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "I'm sure we'll create plenty of memories for our team and our fans, too."
Arbour needed some time to implement his strategy, teaching his young team to play defense. Nolan, meanwhile, took the Islanders right back to the postseason after taking over as coach in 2006-07.
New York, which has won three of four, is playing like a playoff contender again.
Rick DiPietro bounced back from a rough game, turning aside 28 shots for his 12th career shutout while adding an assist to help the Islanders (6-4-0) beat Tampa Bay 4-0 on Thursday night. He gave up six goals in just more than 30 minutes last Saturday in an 8-3 loss to Carolina.
Bill Guerin, Josef Vasicek, Ruslan Fedotenko and Trent Hunter scored Thursday, giving New York four goals or more in three of its last four games.
Guerin has found the back of the net five times in that span. He has eight goals and three assists in his last 10 games against the Penguins (6-5-1).
Sidney Crosby, meanwhile, has nine goals and 22 assists in 15 games against the Islanders, and has been red-hot this season since being held scoreless in Pittsburgh's season opener at Carolina.
Crosby had two goals, but it wasn't enough as the Penguins lost 3-2 to Colorado on Thursday night. Pittsburgh is in second place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Islanders.
Crosby has seven goals and 17 assists during an 11-game point streak, but the Penguins are 1-2-1 since a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers on Oct. 23. He scored his second power-play goal of the season Thursday, giving Pittsburgh at least one goal with the man advantage in all 12 games.
With Pittsburgh on the power play against the Avalanche, Evgeni Malkin's pass set up Crosby's second goal of the night with 1:53 left in the first. Malkin has 10 assists in his last five games.
"The guy that makes the pass ought to get a lot of credit too," Crosby said.
New York went 4-3-1 against Pittsburgh last season. Crosby played in seven of those contests and had three goals and 14 assists.