John Tavares dutifully repeated that now-common refrain: The announcement that the Islanders will play 60 games at Nassau Coliseum in the next three seasons likely will not affect him when it comes to free agency.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t a bonus, and that certainly doesn’t mean that the Islanders aren’t pretty thrilled. It might not even mean it won’t eventually factor heavily into Tavares’ decision to sign a contract extension or pursue free agency.
“I’m not going to say whether it changes my thought process,” he said Monday. “I don’t think my thought process has really changed. Anything that involves playing hockey and my daily life away from the rink is going to be factored into my decision. I think it’s great we’re going back and I’m going to have an opportunity to play there again. I think it’s only positive.”
Hours after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the Islanders will split time between the Coliseum and Barclays Center while the new Belmont arena is being built, the team, skating at Northwell Health Ice Center, gave its continued nod of approval.
“I think it’s great, it’s great,” coach Doug Weight said. “The ownership is going after it. They want to get answers for our players and our organization and it’s great to hear. It’s a step forward . . . We’re excited.
“We’re excited about Belmont. But you have to build the place. Barclays has been a good home for us and Nassau — this is the best-case scenario for us. Do you want to snap your fingers and be in a new building? Who doesn’t? But that’s not how it’s going to play out, but I’m very excited about it.”
Cuomo first hinted at the plan when it was announced that the Islanders won the bid for the new arena. Weeks later, the team now knows it will play 12 regular-season games at the Coliseum next season and more in the two seasons after that.
Mathew Barzal said he has talked to his teammates about playing at the Coliseum. He played there in the preseason but missed the Coliseum era by about three years. “In terms of atmosphere and everything, they love it there. Crazy fans,’’ Barzal said. “We played the preseason game there and it was crazy in there, so I’m really looking forward to it, actually. I was pretty excited to hear that we got some games.”
n Cizikas may play Tuesday
It’s the type of gift only the All-Star break can give. With three days off and plenty of rest, three Islanders on the mend made appearances at practice, and Weight said it’s possible that Casey Cizikas, who has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury, will play against the Panthers on Tuesday. Johnny Boychuk (lower body) and Andrew Ladd (upper body) also skated but are a little bit further off.
“ ‘Z’ looked good,” Weight said of Cizikas. “It’s really good to see them out there and battling. Ladder [Ladd] wasn’t planning on playing most of the practice and he stayed in there, and so did Johnny. For me, it’s really exciting . . . The only chance of someone playing tomorrow is Casey, if anybody.”