Derek King spent the first nine-plus seasons of his NHL career with the Islanders. Now Chicago’s interim coach, he remembers initially being awed by the size of Nassau Coliseum during his first training camp in 1985, describing the suites and the locker room as "gorgeous."
"Coming from the OHL, it’s a big step," said King, who is positioning himself nicely to have the interim tag removed and get the job full-time. "Then, after a while, you go to all these other rinks when you’re playing and you go back to home and you’re like, ‘Oh, when are they going to build a new rink?’ It had that mothball smell to the carpets. But it was a great place. It was an awesome place. I went there as a boy and left as a man."
King, who took over behind the bench for fellow former Islander Jeremy Colliton on Nov. 6, won his first game coaching against his former team as Chicago earned a 3-2 shootout victory on Sunday night at UBS Arena.
King, who met his wife during his time on Long Island and still has a lot of family members in the area, was expecting some buddies to be at UBS Arena, wearing his old Islanders jersey, "screaming things and making me look like an idiot."
"I’m just happy the rink and the Islanders are back on Long Island and not in Brooklyn or going somewhere else," King said. "I’m happy for the fans."
Matt Martin was held out because of a nagging injury as coach Barry Trotz inserted Ross Johnston for the first time since a season-opening 6-3 loss at Carolina on Oct. 14.
"[Martin] can play through it and he has been," Trotz said. "But I just think it’s affected his game a little bit. I wanted to get Ross Johnston in. He gets around the ice pretty good and we’re just trying to change things up a little bit. So we did and I thought he had a really strong first game."
Johnston logged 11:09 on a reconfigured fourth line, with Zach Parise centering him and Cal Clutterbuck.
Casey Cizikas, the lone remaining Islander in COVID-19 protocol, has yet to test negative. Cizikas entered the protocol on Nov. 27 and missed his third game on Sunday. Said Trotz, "It will probably be the 10 days [of quarantine] and then we’ll see where he is." . . . Jean-Gabriel Pageau won 15 of 19 faceoffs.