A huge day for Islanders, on and off the ice

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders flips a puck off his stick during the Upper Deck NHL Rookie Debut at the Hershey Centre (August 26, 2009). Photo Credit: Getty Images

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When asked recently about Saturday's significance for the Islanders' organization, owner Charles Wang politely deflected the question with a laugh.

"It's opening night," he said. "We're going to play a hockey game."

But Saturday night is more than just the Islanders' home opener. It is more than just line combinations, power-play units and Sidney Crosby's Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town. Saturday night is about far-reaching implications for the fate of the organization and the first glimpse of the player the team hopes to anoint as its next star.

While the Islanders attempt to reverse last season's fortune - a 30th-place finish - all eyes will be on No. 1 draft pick John Tavares. Tavares, who played in four preseason games, will have his first opportunity to dazzle a re-energized fan base and endear himself to them.

Whether Tavares scores the game-winner or debuts to a colossal thud, however, pales in comparison with the story line off the ice.

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That's because Wang was supposed to learn whether his Oct. 3 deadline to receive word from the Town of Hempstead on the Lighthouse project has been met. But Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said she phoned Charles Wang on Friday afternoon requesting a meeting to discuss "amending" the proposed Lighthouse project.

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Murray said that Wang was amenable to a meeting and said he would call her Monday or Tuesday to schedule one.

Wang had set a deadline to find out if he has a legitimate chance to replace the crumbling, antiquated Nassau Coliseum with a gleaming new facility, or whether he'll have to begin entertaining offers from other suitors looking to give the Islanders a home. "Give me a 'yes' or a 'no,' " Wang has implored Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray.

Wang is fed up with the political byplay, frustrated by the indecision and vexed by the circumlocution that he believes is stalling his proposed project. Wang said he loves Long Island, is committed to Long Island and believes that's where the Islanders belong. But without a straight answer, he says he'll be forced to entertain other offers.

Said Wang, "I certainly will start to explore other options."

Notes & quotes: Doug Weight was selected by his teammates as the Islanders' 12th captain Thursday night. Weight, who also served as captain of the Oilers from 1999-2001, said he was honored by the recognition. "It felt really great," he said. "It's a privilege to be in this league, let alone being the captain of a couple of franchises." Mark Streit, Brendan Witt, Kyle Okposo and Richard Park were named alternate captains.

- With Eden Laikin

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