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Potvin pulling for 'hometown' Panthers

Retired Islanders legend staying loyal to South Florida

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Managing Editor

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Denis Potvin captained the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships and 19 straight postseason series victories. He knows a thing or two about their history, how owner Charles Wang tried desperately to keep them in Nassau County and how they're trying win a Stanley Cup Playoff round for the first time in 23 years.

But Potvin, a Florida Panthers TV analyst who has made South Florida his home for the better part of the past two decades, won't be torn when this Eastern Conference First Round gets underway Thursday at BB&T Center (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, MSG+, FS-F, SN, TVA Sports 2). He admitted the Islanders' move from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Barclays Center this season played a role.

"It's exciting more so for the Panthers," Potvin said. "If this was a series going back to 'Fort Neverlose,' I think it would be a little bit different. But somehow being at the Brooklyn arena and the fact that I'm back with the Panthers now -- I've been here a long time since '93 except for that stint with Ottawa -- this is really my home so I'm pulling for this team."

The move to Barclays Center may have had an impact on the Islanders' personal lives, but it didn't show on the ice. New York enjoyed its second straight season of at least 100 points and was 25-11-5 in its new home.

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"It was interesting," Potvin said. "I thought at the beginning of the season when we first played them I thought, 'Gee, how are they going to make this work with the wives and the travel and how do you get home and the train?' It just seemed like a big thing to take on. And then the team goes out and has a 100-point season. I give them a lot of credit for that, because sometimes a change of venue like that is not easy. It's almost like a traveling home game.

"When I saw the arena, I didn't think much of it. I thought basically the broadcast location's terrific. We're down low and everything. It looked like the ice was fine, so I have no issues there."

Still, Potvin, just like all of his former teammates who has so much success on Long Island, was disappointed to see Nassau County politicians clash with Wang rather than work with him to replace or refurbish Nassau Coliseum.

"I'm not into the politics so much, but it certainly seemed like the county didn't need to rush out and didn't want to help out," Potvin said. "We'd been there for so many years and brought so much tax revenue to that county, you would imagine that like many other counties around the country, something could have been done. But obviously it was not.

"I think Mr. Wang worked his tail off to try and get it up and going and had a nice name to it, 'The Lighthouse Project.' It's unfortunate it didn't work out. I wish it had."

The Panthers host the first two games before this best-of-7 series shifts to Barclays Center for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Wednesday. It's hard to replace the feeling the Coliseum brought, but Potvin is hopeful Islanders fans will provide quite a home-ice advantage in what will be the first two NHL playoff games ever played in Brooklyn.

"I think it's going to be great," Potvin said. "They're going to win a lot fans. Brooklyn's a terrific city by itself. I think Brooklyn's just waiting to get something going against Manhattan. This is not going to touch there, but I think it's going to be a great series all around."

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