It turns out you can go home again.
The Islanders practiced at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game there against Columbus, the team’s first regular-season game at their original home since April 2015.
“As old as it might be, as dark as it might be, it’s a special place for anybody who has ever played for the Islanders,” said Cal Clutterbuck, who scored the last goal in the final playoff game there on April 25, 2015.
The Islanders have since played exhibition games at the Coliseum, but that 3-1 win over Washington in Game 6 of a first-round series was the team’s last meaningful game there before the move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Barry Trotz, who coached that Capitals team and is now the Isles’ coach, recalls the Coliseum being a difficult place to play.
“There are certain buildings that are tougher to come into,” he said. “The buildings are very generic now around the league . . . The older buildings are a little more intimate. They carry a little more weight. Players get energy from the building.”
Anders Lee said he remembers getting that jolt from the home fans. “When you have that kind of energy behind you . . . the energy you’ll see [Saturday], that’s what home-ice advantage is all about,” he said.
Said Josh Bailey, “I think anyone that was part of the team has nothing but good memories of playing in this building. The atmosphere was a playoff atmosphere every night. I’m looking forward to Saturday] night. It’ll be good for us and good for the fans.”
The Islanders averaged 15,334 in their final season at the Coliseum, which sat roughly 16,000 at the time, according to ESPN.com. This season, they are averaging 10,447, last in the league, at 15,795-seat Barclays Center. The Islanders said Friday night that a limited number of tickets remain for the game against the Blue Jackets.
The players are well aware of what being back at the Coliseum means for fans on Long Island.
“Everyone who’s had the chance to play as an Islander here [knows] what it means to this organization and the fans and to the area,” Lee said.
Said Clutterbuck, “We all live in and around here, and when people are talking about it in public and bringing it up in front of you, you realize how widespread the excitement is. This building is part of the culture of the Islanders’ fan base.
“People are pretty excited and they’ve been waiting a long time for this. Exhibition games are one thing, but when games are here for real, expect it to be on another level.”
Added Lee, “When we’re playing and the crowd’s behind us, there’s not a better place to play.”