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Barclays awaits, but Coliseum still has homey feeling for some players

The Islanders and the New Jersey Devils drop

The Islanders and the New Jersey Devils drop the opening puck during a preseason game at the Barclays Center on Sept. 21, 2013 in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

It makes sense that the Islanders from the early 1980s wished this season -- the franchise's last at Nassau Coliseum -- hadn't come.

But for the current Islanders, who play in a building that looks very much the same as it did three decades ago, one would think the departure for a more state-of-the-art building in Brooklyn next season would be a welcome change.

Not so fast.

"It's home," said Kyle Okposo, who has been kicking around the Coliseum since his first rookie camp in the summer of 2006. "Any time you have a home rink for a long period, you get used to it. I feel like I know every space on the ice. You're just comfortable out there. I've got my routine that I do, that I've done for six, seven years now. You have to go and get used to a new place that'll feel like a road rink for the first few games. I'll miss the routine and I'll definitely miss the old barn."

The high point for Okposo, John Tavares and the rest of the longer-serving Islanders core was the spring of 2013, when the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, three seasons before Tavares joined the club in 2009. The three home games during the six-game series loss to the Penguins hearkened back to the good old days -- not just a full building but a building full of Islanders fans screaming their lungs out for the full three hours.

"I know we shouldn't keep talking about the playoff series, but that series or playing against the Rangers or Philly, it's just loud in here," Travis Hamonic said. "You can hear everything the fans are saying, one way or the other. I'm sure it can be tough on opposing teams when the place is full and the fans are going the way they can go."

Tavares has enjoyed some special moments in his five seasons on Long Island. He's the unquestioned fan favorite at the Coliseum and has heard from some of the Isles' legends about the raucous dynasty days. And he has his own memories that he'll take away once this last season ends.

"The Islander-Ranger games are unbelievable here," he said. "Sitting in the locker room, you can hear the fans going back and forth before you get out onto the ice. Those games are a lot of fun. You just hear everything, I guess -- low ceiling, the fans being right on top of you, it creates quite the atmosphere when this place is full."

And there's still one season left to see if the Islanders can make the old building come to life.

"There's so much history here," Hamonic said, "it'd be nice to win here one last time."

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