Isles' first game at Barclays Center is another proving ground

Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New

Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game at Barclays Center. (Sept. 21, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

Once the fanfare and excitement of the first Islanders game at Barclays Center wore off Saturday night, the Isles' first-ever game in Brooklyn went back to being just another preseason game.

The announced crowd of 14,689 likely wanted to see more from the Islanders, who lost to the Devils, 3-0. But this still was a chance for Jack Capuano and his staff to evaluate his team.

It still was special for the Islanders to skate onto the Barclays Center ice in front of a crowd that rivaled some of their regular-season crowds at Nassau Coliseum. "It was loud and it was good to have that support," John Tavares said. "We wanted to play well and we didn't, but it was a lot of fun to get a chance to play in this building."

Tavares worked hard to shake off the rust from his preseason debut in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Tuesday. Griffin Reinhart, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft, played his third game in five nights and again impressed Capuano with his capable play on defense.

And one of the team's unsung groups, the energy line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald, wanted to remind Capuano and Islanders fans why they were such a key part of last season's success.

"Those guys there understand their roles," Capuano said before the game. "They're physical, they chip pucks, systematically they understand what they have to do. To me, those are the guys we can use in crucial situations."

The three came together last season after coming from disparate backgrounds. Cizikas, a fourth-round pick in 2009, had a taste of the NHL in 2011-12, playing 15 games. He played in Bridgeport during the lockout, trying to cement his role as a relentless two-way player.

McDonald, a 2003 Oilers draft pick who had bounced around the Edmonton and Pittsburgh organizations, joined the Islanders just before the lockout and captained the Sound Tigers during the three-month labor battle.

Martin was entering his third full season as a depth forward, a fan favorite and one of the league's leading hit-deliverers.

Capuano found the line most reliable last season after goals -- either by the Isles, when the line went out to sustain pressure and momentum, or by the opponent, when there was a need to pick up the team.

"It's a good feeling to have a role, to understand what he expects from us," Martin said. "It's a good feeling to know when we scored a goal, we'd be going out there next."

And there were some key goals from all three. Cizikas scored a game-winner against the Panthers on March 16 late in the third after the Isles had blown a three-goal lead. McDonald jammed one home at Madison Square Garden to begin a two-goal rally and shootout win over the Rangers on Feb. 14. The three totaled five goals in the postseason.

"We read off each other well," Cizikas said. "The way all three of us play, it almost makes it easier for the other two because we know that first guy in the zone, we know he's going to make that hit just about every time. It's something that made us so successful last year."

Notes & quotes: Kyle Okposo took Jon Merrill's stick to the face and skated to the dressing room midway through the third period. He did not return.

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