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Former captain Potvin excited by Islanders' revival

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Denis Potvin's No. 5 hangs from the rafters of the Nassau Coliseum in tribute to a career that included serving as a cornerstone of the New York Islanders' four consecutive Stanley Cup-winning teams from 1980-83.

But before being honored by the Islanders on Saturday as part of their final season at the Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn next fall, the Hall of Fame defenseman, now 61, said this edition of the Islanders has to grab the chance to write its own history.

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"The one thing that coincides with moving to a new building is that now it's like the torch is really being passed to them," he said. "They have a chance to do something. It's all about them.

"You don't have to prove yourself to us, to the 1980 team or the [or the '81 team] or the '82 team or the '83 team. They've got a great opportunity to write their own history. With the steps they've made over the last couple of years, it's probably 1975 for this team, and it doesn't get any better than that."

The 1974-75 Islanders stunned the NHL by upsetting the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, then became the second team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a series when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinals. They nearly did it again in the semifinals against the defending champion Philadelphia Flyers, losing the first three games and winning the next three before losing Game 7.

That team was mostly composed of young players, augmented by a trade that brought veteran forwards J.P. Parise and Jude Drouin from the Minnesota North Stars. Potvin said he sees a parallel with this Islanders team, which has gotten a huge boost from preseason trades that brought defensemen Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins and Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks.

"Obviously they've got the young talent that everyone is excited about," Potvin said. "What you need to do is make a trade. J.P. Parise and Jude Drouin [in 1975]; Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy [now].

"This team needs to go out and make the playoffs, stay in the playoffs, win in the playoffs, maybe lose in the playoffs, and then start to take control."

Potvin said as the NHL's first team to be based outside of a major city, there was a special bond between the players and the fans who turned out at the Coliseum.

"It was a community atmosphere that you probably wouldn't find in other major cities," said Potvin, who had 310 goals and 742 assists in 1,060 games, all with the Islanders. "The makeup of Long Island was such that it wasn't overwhelming for us. All I knew about New York was the Empire State Building. This was so different than what we expected. It was impossible to stay home on Thanksgiving. I had kosher meals, I had turkey with Christian families, then I'd go to an Italian family for Christmas and have fish. It was a great eye-opener for all of us. The people really took us in. It was great."

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