Hockey players have long memories, but the New York Islanders don't have to look too far back to find some extra motivation for Thursday's rematch with the New York Rangers.
The Isles dropped a 6-2 decision to the Rangers on Monday night, the first meeting between the rivals in a leap year. The loss didn't sit well with the Islanders, who took out their frustrations on the Detroit Red Wings with an 8-2 win on Tuesday.
Now, the focus shifts back to the Rangers, as the Isles seek some revenge on their crosstown rivals.
"I don't think you forget losses like that, especially against the Rangers, divisional teams," captain Anders Lee said. "It was only three days ago, it's fresh, that's for sure."
While Monday's game featured two fights - the first Isles-Rangers game to have multiple scraps since Nov. 15, 2011 - the Isles insist that punching back on the scoreboard takes precedent over fisticuffs. Matt Martin, who was ejected along with Brendan Smith for fighting during the same stoppage as Ross Johnston and Michael Haley, said to not necessarily expect a brouhaha and that every Isles-Rangers game has its own flavor. After all, who could have predicted two fights in the opening two-and-a-half minutes at MSG?
"You just go out there and get ready to play the game that is presented to you," Martin said. "You have to keep your emotions in check, especially these games for the fans and how into it they are, hooting and hollering after every hit, every play. Controlling your emotions and being disciplined is such a key part in having success."
Head Coach Barry Trotz joked that it might be safer on the ice than in the stands at Nassau Coliseum, which is hosting the rivalry game for the first time in five seasons. Of course, the Islanders' coach is making that determination on legend than actual experience.
"I've been in the league a long time and have had some great experiences in every location I've been, this is one experience I haven't had the opportunity to experience. Hopefully it'll be what I think it will be."
The veteran Islanders are looking forward to hosting the Rangers on Hempstead Turnpike for the first time since March 10, 2015, a night where Ryan Strome (now a Ranger) had an assist for the Islanders while Derick Brassard had one for the Rangers. The veteran Islanders expect the already raucous Isles-Rangers atmosphere to kick up another notch. Martin is one of the Islanders who remembers the dueling chants of "Nabby" and "Gabby" for former Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov and former Ranger Marian Gaborik during the 2011-13 seasons. He's expecting more split fandom and a loud building on Thursday night.
"This is home for us," Martin said. "It's certainly a different environment here than Barclays Center. They are still a lot of fun to play at Barclays Center, but just newer buildings don't hold the noise quite as well. The ceilings are higher. There's something about games in this building are loud and hostile and a lot of fun. I think both fanbases show pretty well in these."
It should be noted that while the players and fans alike celebrate the return of the rivalry to the Coliseum, it should be noted that the Islanders went 7-1-0 in eight games vs the Rangers at Barclays Center over the past four years. Starting a similar run on Long Island would certainly be the best way for the Isles to hit back after Monday night.