UNIONDALE, N.Y.--The Colorado Avalanche was supposed to play its final game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 11, 2014. It was a night where Avalanche players, coaches, staff and media members could reminiscence about their previous experiences at the rink and where they tried to remember every last detail of a historic building that housed some of the greatest teams in NHL history.
That game ended up being anything but memorable as Colorado lost 6-0, but the club returns to the hollowed arena Monday night to rewrite a better ending.
The old barn has been rebranded as "NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Coliseum" and has been given a facelift with some partial renovations on its inside and with its exterior. However, the bones that saw the Islanders win four Stanley Cups in a row from 1980 to 1983 remain.
New York called the building home full-time from 1972 to 2014 before moving to play its home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Islanders played three season in the New York City borough before they started to hold some of their contests back at the Coliseum starting in 2018.
"Historic buildings are fun to come back to," said Avs veteran defenseman Erik Johnson. "Some guys haven't played here before, so it will be good for them to experience it."
Only three players remain from the Avs team that skated in that 2014 game--Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon--and Monday's contest will be the first at the arena for many of the squad's younger players and head coach Jared Bednar.
"It's my first time coaching here," Bednar said after morning skate. "I used to watch the rivalry between the Oilers and Islanders when both teams were winning all those cups, so I think it is pretty cool to be able to play here and they've done a nice job with the partial renovation. It should be a fun game for us tonight."
Colorado's last win at Nassau Coliseum was in its second-to-last-trip to Long Island, as it picked up a 5-2 victory on Feb. 8, 2014. The Avs are 5-7-0 all-time in the building since moving to Denver in 1995.
Drafted in 2011, Landeskog only played at the rink twice, but he remembers a fun experience with fans packing one of the oldest arenas in pro sports.
"This building is a lot of fun to play in, and obviously it has a lot of history," Landeskog said. "I know they've renovated it to a certain degree, but it is a lot of fun to be back here. It's a great atmosphere and should be a lot of fun tonight."
Colorado forward Matt Calvert's fondest memory of the Coliseum was his last game he played there while a member of the Columbus Blues Jackets on April 11, 2014, which also happened to be the Islanders' final regular season contest before the move to Brooklyn.
The Blue Jackets won 5-4 in a shootout, and the loss for the Islanders was enough for them to drop in the standings and start the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road instead of at home. New York went on to lose in six games to the Washington Capitals in Round 1 of the 2014 postseason.
"They were making the playoffs, we weren't and we beat them to takeaway home-ice advantage," Calvert recalled. "I don't think the fans were too happy about it. I think they ended up losing out in the first round I believe. As a non-playoff team, you have a small part in hurting a division rivals' chances, it's always a little extra to take home with."
Having another ending like the one Calvert had would be ideal for an Avalanche team that has won two in a row and is playing the second of a three-game road trip in the New York metropolitan area.
HEY, VARLY VARLY
Pavel Francouz will get the start in net for the Avs this evening, but on the other side of the ice will be a goaltender the club knows well.
Semyon Varlamov is expected to be goal for the Islanders, and it will be the first time that the netminder will face Colorado after spending the previous eight season with the club.
"I had a great eight years playing for the Colorado Avalanche," Varlamov said to NYIslanders.com. "Colorado is a beautiful state, there are a lot of things to do. I really enjoyed living there. I spent a lot of time there and have a lot of friends there. What can I say, it's probably one of the best spots in the United States to live, so I really enjoyed it there. The team was good and the organization was really good to me, really supportive. I always think positive about the time I spent in Colorado."
From 2011 to 2019, Varlamov recorded a 183-156-38 record, 2.72 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and 21 shutouts in 389 games. He trails only Patrick Roy on the franchise's all-time lists in wins, games, shutouts and save percentage.
"He was kind of the backbone of our defense and of our team," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, who joined Colorado at the same time as Varlamov. "We had some tough years. Varly and I played together for eight years, and we had some tough years together, but it could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for him. Super competitive guy, works extremely hard, a really good teammate and quality goaltender, that's for sure."
Varlamov signed with the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Head coach Jared Bednar previously said that he will split up its goalie starts in the team's eighth back-to-back of the season. With Francouz playing this evening on Long Island, Philipp Grubauer is expected to guard the crease on Tuesday at the New York Rangers.
Valeri Nichushkin will return to Colorado's lineup after missing Saturday's game at the New Jersey Devils with an illness. Vladislav Kamenev will join Mark Barberio as the Avs' healthy scratches.
Bednar did not give line combinations following morning skate, but it is expected that Mikko Rantanen will begin the game on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Bednar moved Rantanen onto the line midway through the game in Jersey and the Finnish forward went on to score three goals for his second career hat trick.