To no one’s surprise, the Islanders’ first season in Brooklyn has been a huge logistical adjustment for players and fans.
But home it is, and the Islanders have been very good at Barclays Center, where they are 21-8-4 and have not lost in regulation since . . . Jan. 25!
Plus, for all of the helpful team bonding that comes with being on the road, one’s own place of residence and own family do have their attractions.
So it was Saturday night that as the Islanders wrapped up a stretch of 12 road games out of 14, they very much looked forward to returning to Long Island, Brooklyn and the East Coast in general, starting Monday night against the Flyers.
That was even more the case after a 3-0 loss to the Stars that left them 0-2-1 in their most recent three-game road swing and 1-3-2 in their last six games overall.
Coach Jack Capuano struck a supportive tone after the shutout and even gave his players an unscheduled day off Sunday to recharge and regroup.
Of their 12 remaining regular-season games, eight are at Barclays and one is at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. The only significant travel left is a swing to Tampa and Carolina this weekend, but even those are a back-to-back quickie.
“It’s a little more comfortable when you’re in your own routine and you know what’s going on around you,” Brock Nelson said. “It’s a little bit different on the road. It’s nice to get away sometimes and be with the guys, but always nice to be home.”
Most elite athletes grew accustomed to being away from home for long stretches in their early teenage years, if not before. And there are benefits.
The team had an off day in Nashville on Wednesday and many took advantage, taking in the scene there in groups.
“Any time you’re on the road, you’re with the team, and on days off, obviously, there’s not a whole lot to do,” John Tavares said. “So we spend a lot of it together, and that’s times we chat and you get to know one another and develop those strong relationships and friendships, the camaraderie among this team.”
Now, though, there at least will be some time to catch up on mail and water the houseplants.
“For sure, it’s going to be nice,” Frans Nielsen said. “You always are more comfortable playing at home.”
The Islanders would love to finish second in the Metropolitan Division and secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
They believe they would have beaten the Capitals last year had Game 7 been at Nassau Coliseum.
First things first, though. They have to actually qualify for the playoffs. Their recent slump suddenly has them in fourth place in the division and perched awkwardly in a wild-card spot.
Will it be difficult to bounce back before it is too late? “It’s the best time of the year right now,” Nielsen said. “It’s not going to be tough getting up for the next game. It’s going to be fun.”