The Islanders have been here before.
Twice before this postseason, in fact. They have started on the road in all three playoff series so far and in each of them, they’ve earned a split of the first two games, returning to the friendly (and noisy) confines of Nassau Coliseum tied, 1-1 in the best-of-seven with the Lightning.
In both of their previous series, against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, the Islanders lost Game 3 at home, though, before rallying to win the next three games to win the series.
This time, they’d like to make it easier on themselves, by winning Game 3 at the Coliseum on Thursday.
"I think for us, it’s just, we’ve got to be ready for tomorrow night,’’ Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said Wednesday. "This is a huge game tomorrow, coming back home to our fans, and our building. We’ve got to feed off that energy and we’ve got to bring our best game tomorrow.’’
Capacity at the Coliseum, which is enjoying its final postseason run before the Islanders move into the new UBS Arena next season, continues to increase. Attendance tomorrow is supposed to be 12,978.
"It’s been a special place in the playoffs,’’ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of the Coliseum. "The fans have been unbelievable, and there’s great energy in the building.
"We’re going to need everything, as I said in the first [two] series against Pittsburgh and Boston, those are hard series to get through against two very good teams. And we’re going to need every ounce of encouragement and their mojo, if you will.’’
No one doubts the fans will bring it, but for all the energy the Islanders get from the Coliseum crowd, they are 4-2 in six games there this postseason. They are 5-3 in eight games on the road.
Trotz said there is no magic trick to reverse the two previous Game 3 losses and flip them into a win Thursday.
"For us, we just have to focus in on the next shift,’’ he said. "And the next shift will be at eight o’clock, or 8:20, whenever the game starts tomorrow night. There’s no magic formula to do that. I think we’ve approached every game the same way. [Losing both previous Game 3s], it’s just a little bit of happenstance, I think. But we’ve dug in. We understand the importance of our home ice, our building. Their team, they’re going to come. We’ve got to respond. We lost the game [Tuesday] night, and it’s our turn to respond.’’
The Islanders did not practice Wednesday and Trotz did not have an update on center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who sat out the final 13 minutes of the third period Tuesday after Trotz said he "tweaked’’ something.
But he did say he thought the Islanders will "be healthy tomorrow’’ and he expects to have "a very similar lineup’’ to Game 2. Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom is available, but not necessarily a candidate to enter the lineup, Trotz said.
Cooper and the Coliseum
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who played college lacrosse at Hofstra, spoke fondly about attending Islanders games at the Coliseum while in college.
"I went to a ton of Islander games when some of my buddies were playing for them, and used to sit up there in the upper deck and cheer for them,’’ Cooper said before the Lightning boarded a flight to New York. "And it was just a great atmosphere… That little time they moved from Nassau was kind of a sad time, because we liked going back [to Long Island].’’