TORONTO — Sunday night’s 4-2 loss marked the Islanders’ first game at Scotiabank Arena since the playoff bubble in 2020.
And yes, facing the Maple Leafs in front of a crowd of 17,464 was a welcome change.
“It definitely is different,” said Casey Cizikas, who grew up in Toronto. “We were talking about that on the ice before morning skate, how different it looks with the seats not covered up. I’m going to have family and friends in the crowd tonight. To be able to play in front of them once again, it’s special.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Islanders played 16 games in the arena in front of no fans from Aug. 1-Sept. 5, 2020, and were quarantined at a nearby hotel. They advanced to face the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals in the Edmonton bubble.
“We had some good times as a team bonding,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Our group embraced it and enjoyed it. It wasn’t easy. But I think when you look back at it, it was a special time that you’ll probably only end up doing once in your career, so it makes it quite unique.”
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Goaltender Semyon Varlamov (stomach illness) remained unavailable for a second straight game. Ken Appleby, on emergency recall from the Islanders’ ECHL affiliate in Worcester, again backed up Ilya Sorokin . . . Defenseman Grant Hutton, out of the lineup for the first time in 12 games, also was not feeling well. Trotz said there is concern that the stomach bug is going through the Islanders’ room . . . Oliver Wahlstrom was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games . . . The Maple Leafs honored Islanders Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, who passed away on Friday from lung cancer at 65, with a pregame video tribute and moment of silence . . . Linesman Scott Cherrey worked his 1,000th NHL game.