The Islanders hit the Barclays Center ice Monday night for the first time this season. There was so much more to this first preseason game than just who played with whom and what the result was.
The game against the Flyers was a true test -- for the players to try out their new game-day routines, for an ice sheet that has to hold up over a full season and for an arena that needs to feel like home for the Islanders by the time Oct. 9 rolls around for the regular-season opener.
Monday was also the day the Islanders players tried commuting to work like lots of other folks on Long Island.
"We definitely all feel like Long Islanders now for sure,'' said John Tavares, who took the Long Island Rail Road to Brooklyn and said he and nearly all his teammates will do so all season. "The coaches drove in early this morning and it was a couple hours, so the train is the best option. It's a different experience we'll all enjoy, I think.''
While Tavares and the other Isles sat mostly unbothered on trains to the city, Dan Craig was tending to operations inside Barclays Center. Craig, the NHL's senior director of facilities operations, is widely known as the man who can make ice anywhere. The game in Dodger Stadium between the Kings and Ducks two seasons ago was a miracle of modern ice-making.
But that was one game. Craig and the operations staff need 44 good nights of ice this season, plus playoffs, in a building that's as busy with non-hockey events as any in the league.
"I'll be here quite often, more to get a comfort level for the teams coming in, the coaching staffs, the players,'' Craig said. "Just making sure they're paying attention to the small details. All the basics are here.''
Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark held court Monday evening to discuss ticket sales and how he's responded to the hardcore Islanders fans who, he said, convinced him via social media and email that rebranding the team as he'd initially intended was a mistake.
"I don't think I was sensitive to it early on,'' Yormark said, mentioning the possibility that the Islanders' main jerseys and colors could have changed. "That's too sacred to the fans.''
He also said he was surprised that 30 percent of ticket plan buyers have come from Nassau and Suffolk counties.
This was only the third hockey game in three seasons at Barclays, but there was a noticeable difference already in the ice conditions just for the morning skate.
"You can tell it's been in for a while,'' Tavares said. "The first time we were here [in 2013], chunks of ice were coming up. Today you weren't digging in as much, there weren't as many ruts that could cause a lot of problems.''
The players who commuted in Monday morning got hotel rooms so they could rest during the afternoon. It's going to be an adjustment, for sure.
Nikolay Kulemin and Kirill Petrov said it's been a while since they took a train to a game. "Once, in juniors,'' Petrov said in Russian, with Kulemin translating. "Twenty-four-hour ride.''
But this is what Monday was for, and what Wednesday against the Devils and next Monday against the Caps will be for: Fixing the small problems that may arise. The same goes for hockey for the Islanders, who still have to sort out their on-ice issues before Oct. 9 arrives.
Notes & quotes: The Islanders beat the Flyers, 3-2, on goals by Tavares, Anders Lee and Petrov. Petrov, 25, played a standout game in his Isles debut . . . Jaroslav Halak made 12 saves in two periods . . . The teams played overtime to practice the new 3-on-3 format.