Frans Nielsen played for the Islanders from 2007-16, meaning he spent a good bulk of his NHL career calling NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum his home rink but also being with the team for its first season at Barclays Center.
So Saturday night, as the Islanders beat Nielsen’s Red Wings, 4-3, in a shootout at the refurbished Coliseum, was something he never thought might be a possibility.
“It’s weird,” said Nielsen, who left the Islanders for a six-year, $31.5-million deal with the Red Wings. “I didn’t think I was going to come back here, but it feels good. You can see they’ve done a lot of stuff, but when you look around, it still looks the same. Just some different colors out there.
Still, splitting home games between Uniondale and Brooklyn is not a long-term solution for the Islanders, who hope to open a new arena at Belmont Park in October2021.
“We all loved playing here and we wanted to stay here,” Nielsen said. “But we also knew for business purposes, they needed some kind of a change. It was sad to leave this place, but it’s awesome they’re back and it’s awesome down the road. They’re going to have a really nice home out here [at Belmont Park].”
Right wing Josh Ho-Sang, 22, had two shots in 12:24 in his season debut for the Islanders after being a healthy scratch the previous two games following his recall from Bridgeport (AHL) on Dec. 9. Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick in 2014, was on Valtteri Filppula’s third line with Leo Komarov.
Coach Barry Trotz declared himself “happy” with Ho-Sang’s outing. His best moment came late in the third period as he stickhandled past defenseman Jonathan Ericsson at the Isles’ blue line and went up ice on the rush. But Komarov could not handle his feed to the crease on what looked like a sure goal.
“I think he has the skill set to be a good offensive player,” Trotz said before the game. “Where he’s fallen in the past is a lack of detail structurally. He’s learning to play the game as a pro.”
The Islanders are 2-3 in shootouts . . . Brock Nelson had eight shots and Mathew Barzal added seven . . . It was Billy Joel Night at the Coliseum, with the first 10,000 fans receiving a bobblehead of the Long Island rock star . . . Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game . . . Forwards Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Luca Sbisa did not dress.