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Islanders head back to roots with trip to Coliseum

Coach says playing Flyers at former home 'not just another preseason game'

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders coach Doug Weight knows his biggest role in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday will be to evaluate his players, to see who got bigger and stronger during the summer and who may not be ready for prime time.

There is one caveat, though. The game will be played at the place the Islanders called home for their first 43 years of existence, the since-refurbished and renamed NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Weight was an assistant for the Islanders during their final season in this building, when New York had 101 points in the regular season and took the Washington Capitals to the limit in the Eastern Conference First Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing in seven games.

The Islanders moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.

"You have to look at it [as just another preseason game] certainly in our position," Weight said Tuesday after the Islanders rookies practiced at the Coliseum. "We want to look at our talent and put them in positions to show us what they have. But certainly, I think we're all going to feel like, 'Hey, this is pretty cool.' We were here today practicing with the rookies and it's a place that not only me or other players have memories and good memories, but the fans. So I think it's not just another preseason game, that's for sure."

Weight first joined the Islanders as a player in 2008, the season before they selected center John Tavares with the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft. New York won 26 games that season and finished with a League-low 61 points.

Video: The guys chat about the New York Islanders

Weight became an assistant with the Islanders after retiring as a player in 2011 and, with Tavares' lead, watched the franchise excel at the Coliseum, once the home of four consecutive Stanley Cup champions (1980-83). The Islanders ended a six-year playoff drought in 2013, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a six-game, first-round series, and the fans took notice.

"The Pittsburgh series was one of the loudest venues you're going to be around," Weight said. "We've just got passionate, crazy fans. I remember everything about that last season as it closed on. It was a great, well-fought playoffs and we came up a little short.

"Not sad, because I think you're always moving on and you can't look at it that way. But it's a franchise that rivals in any sport, really, the run that they went on and the pride that those fans show in those games. It's just so loud. If it's an 8 o'clock game at night or 8 in the morning, they're going to be there four hours before. It was a cool environment."

It will be a cool environment on Sunday, even well before the opening faceoff. Pregame festivities outside the Coliseum will include the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, which will give fans an opportunity to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup. Fans can also visit the 53-foot Museum Truck, which features interactive displays, historical memorabilia and photo opportunities.

 

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Islanders legends Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith will also be in attendance for the game, which is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET.

"I know that they won four Cups in a row here," forward Josh Ho-Sang said. "I know it's a really big deal for the fans in terms of what this building represents. It represents glory for them, and I'm hoping that wherever we end up that we can bring that back into fruition. But I've heard stories … all the fans go on and on about it when they talk to me. I wish I got to see it in its prime, but hopefully Sunday is a little bit of a taste. It should be nuts. Hopefully it'll feel like a first NHL game again. It's going to be exciting and the nerves are going to be there, for sure.

"I know this rink meant a lot to the fans. It's nice to get a chance to be a part of it. Hopefully, I get a chance to play on Sunday and really feel what it was like to play here. I never actually got a chance to play a game here, but the practices were fun."

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