UBS Arena was built to make money, of course, and to give Islanders fans and players a nice, new rink to call their own.
But naturally, it would be a bonus for all concerned if the new barn provided the sort of home-ice edge for which Nassau Coliseum was known in its “Fort Neverlose” glory days.
In its earliest weeks, that did not go so well. The Islanders christened UBS on Nov. 20 with a COVID-19-ravaged lineup that lost to the Flames, 5-2, and went 0-5-2 in their first seven games there.
That was not in the blueprints for the $1.1-billion facility.
Things have improved since, though, and not a moment too soon given the Islanders’ thorough hole in the standings and the fact their schedule now is loaded with home games as they try to make up ground.
Thursday night’s 3-2 victory over the visiting Devils improved their record at home to 5-0-1 in their last six.
They will try to keep that streak going against the Capitals on Saturday and beyond. Nine of their next 10 games currently are scheduled for UBS Arena, part of a larger stretch of 14 of 15 and 16 of 18 at home.
The Islanders’ acclimation course of action was discombobulated — along with everything else about their season — by COVID complications.
Their longest-termed player, Josh Bailey, missed the first four games at UBS and was quarantined in a Florida hotel room on opening night.
“It took maybe a associate of games for it to truly feel like home, but since then it’s been smooth sailing,” he said.
Among other good signs, the Islanders have scored a strength-play goal at home in eight consecutive games, their longest such streak in a single season since 1996.
“I’ve said this before: The building is different, but the people are the same,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “They’re making the same noise. It was a little bit unfortunate the way that we had to start things in that building, and I think it took us a little while to kind of get it going.
“But I think it has nothing to do with the fans or the building. It just has to do with the circumstances we were under and us trying to figure out what we needed to do to win with guys being out and the uncertainty of it.”
Zach Parise, a Devil when the Prudential Center opened in 2007, said, “When you’re coming in a new building, there’s the unfamiliarity of everything — the locker room, the ice surface, just being out there, it’s an adjustment.
“But I think we’re comfortable here now. We’ve got an noticeable crowd and fan base and we really wanted to give them something to cheer about, and they made a big difference for us [on Thursday night].”
Notes & Quotes: J-G Pageau and Sebastian Aho practiced on Friday after missing Thursday’s game when their wives gave birth. “It was amazing,” Pageau said, adding his newborn son, Tommy, and wife, Camille, were doing well. It is the associate’s first child. “Just a great experience, and the boys finish it off with a nice win..” . . . Interim coach Lane Lambert had no update Friday on when Barry Trotz would return from COVID-19 protocol. “Barry’s recovering and once he gets to the point where he needs to be, he’ll be back,” Lambert said . . . Ross Johnston had a hearing Friday with NHL Player Safety for an illegal check to the head against the Devils’ A.J. Greer . . . Lambert on defending the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin on the strength play: “Don’t let him shoot from that identify.”
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