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Islanders, fans relish more games at Nassau Coliseum

by John Kreiser

BLUE JACKETS (41-35-5) at ISLANDERS (47-28-6)


UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Happily for the New York Islanders, their final regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum won't be the last time they take the ice at the only building they've ever called home.

The Islanders play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday in their last regular-season game before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall. But after advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three years, the Islanders are assured of at least two more games at the Coliseum when they play the Washington Capitals in an Eastern Conference First Round series.

New York locked up third place in the Metropolitan Division with a 3-1 victory at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. The Islanders will have a chance to jump into second place with a victory after the Capitals lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers in an afternoon game.

The Blue Jackets won't make the playoffs, but they're ending the season as the NHL's hottest team. Columbus is 11-0-1 in its past 12 games after a 4-2 victory Friday against the Buffalo Sabres in the Blue Jackets' final home game.

The Islanders had an optional morning skate. The Blue Jackets didn't skate, but Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said two hours before the game that backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney would start in place of Sergei Bobrovsky, who played Friday. The Blue Jackets will also make a change on defense, with Kevin Connauton replacing Ryan Murray.

The Islanders will sell out the 43-year-old Coliseum for the 27th time in their 41 home games. Tavares said the players and the fans have developed a special bond this season, highlighted by the chant of "Yes! Yes! Yes!" that has accompanied goals and victories.

"The people really make this place special," said Islanders captain John Tavares, who enters the season finale tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the NHL scoring lead (84 points). "Something like that just happens and kind of brings everyone together, especially with the season that we've had. It's been something special between ourselves and the fans.

"We've definitely enjoyed it and have been thriving on it. You can see every game; it just keeps getting stronger and stronger."

Forward Kyle Okposo said he is expecting a special atmosphere.

"It's going to be loud in here, and it will be pretty nostalgic for a lot of the fans," he said. "For us, we're getting ready for the postseason and we want to make sure we're playing well."

Richards said he feels all the ceremony surrounding the final regular-season game at the Coliseum will help his team after an emotional win Friday in their final regular-season home game.

"This one should be an easy one to get focused for, with everything that’s going on," he said. "You follow what's happening around the League today, and this is a big game for them, and it’s going to be a great environment. It should help them and it should help us."

Richards, a native of Minnesota, said he has memories of watching games at the Coliseum when he was young.

"As a kid, growing up in Minnesota, I remember watching a lot of games in this building. There's a lot of history in this building. I remember the year [1981] they played the North Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. It brings back a lot of memories. I’m glad to be here, to be part of it."

Here are the projected lineups:


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson

Brandon Dubinsky - Artem Anisimov - Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Marko Dano

Matt Calvert - Mark LetestuJeremy Morin

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Kevin Connauton - Cody Goloubef

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Curtis McElhinney

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratched: Corey Tropp, Jared Boll, Ryan Murray, Justin Falk

Injured: David Clarkson (oblique), Jack Skille (shoulder), Rene Bourque (back)


Nikolay KuleminJohn TavaresRyan Strome

Michael GrabnerJosh BaileyKyle Okposo

Anders LeeBrock NelsonCal Clutterbuck

Eric BoultonCasey CizikasTyler Kennedy

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Brian StraitTravis Hamonic

Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

Jaroslav Halak

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Colin McDonald, Matt Donovan, Calvin De Haan

Injured: Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Matt Martin (undisclosed), Frans Nielsen (undisclosed), Michal Neuvirth (undisclosed)

Status report: The Islanders announced the emergency recall of goaltender Kevin Poulin from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and said backup goalie Michal Neuvirth has an undisclosed injury. Hamonic was to be evaluated Saturday after leaving the game in Pittsburgh during the first period with an apparent lower-body injury. He did not return and was limping when he arrived at the Coliseum for a morning meeting. Nielsen, Martin, Grabovski and McDonald skated in the morning prior to the meeting.

Who's hot: Dubinsky has three goals and seven assists in a seven-game point streak. Calvert has three goals in his last four games. Columbus has scored 49 goals in its past 12 games. … Tavares has 10 points in his past five games, including the winning goal in Pittsburgh on Friday. If Tavares leads the League in scoring, he would join Bryan Trottier (1978-79) as the only Islanders to do so.

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