If the atmosphere at Barclays Center has been a bit lacking so far in this first Islanders season in Brooklyn, fear not.
The Rangers are coming to downtown Brooklyn.
Wednesday brings the first-ever meeting between the now intracity rivals in Brooklyn after 126 Islanders home games against the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum, plus one at Yankee Stadium two years ago. And the Islanders are ready, both on the ice and in their new home, which surely will be rocking with a mix of Isles and Rangers fans ready for action.
“There’s a lot of hatred there, a lot of anticipation there to face them,” Cal Clutterbuck said after Monday’s 5-3 win over the Avalanche. “It’s their first time in our building, so I expect it to be intense. It’s going to be exciting.”
The Islanders have shown some fortitude of late, coming into Wednesday’s showdown on a 3-0-1 run. They’ve given up the first goal in all four games and trailed 2-0 to the Panthers and Lightning on the road before rallying for three of four points in their weekend Florida swing.
They’re also fully healthy and properly aligned for the first time all season. Thomas Hickey is back from his second injury of the year, a left leg problem that forced him to miss 16 games. And Ryan Strome, who had an assist and empty-net goal Monday, has four points in three games since his return from a three-week exile in Bridgeport.
“It’s all about opportunity,” Strome said after Monday’s win. He has seven points in six career games against the Rangers, the most for him against any opponent. “You’re just trying to be opportunistic when you’re out there and make the most of your chances. You can’t overdo it, you let the game come to you.”
The Islanders have had only one sellout at Barclays Center in their first 14 home games and are playing to 78.4 percent of capacity, 27th in the NHL. The biggest crowds outside of the opener against the Blackhawks were against teams whose fans travel well: the Canadiens, Bruins, Sabres and Flyers.
And any longtime Islanders fan knows that Rangers fans invaded the Coliseum often during the 43 years of the rivalry. So a full building Wednesday likely will mean a healthy dose of Rangers’ blue to go with the Isles’ blue and orange.
“I think it will probably be the loudest the building has been up until this point, for sure,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Being in a new facility, both teams will go at it, business as usual, but I know when our guys step on the ice, they’ll see an atmosphere they haven’t probably seen up until this point.”
Both teams are in playoff position, as they were last season, which bumps up the meaning even more. The Islanders are definitely primed to see their old enemies come to see the new place and perhaps this will be the game that makes Brooklyn really feel like home.
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