Bo Horvat of the Islanders skates against the Flyers during the first...

Bo Horvat of the Islanders skates against the Flyers during the first period at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Credit: NHLI via Getty Images/Len Redkoles

UBS Arena, partly because of COVID-19 circumstances, partly because of the Islanders’ performances and partly because it has yet to host a playoff game, has not had an overabundance of special moments since opening in November of 2021.

The team and Bo Horvat are hoping that, in hindsight if he fulfills expectations, his home debut as an Islander on Tuesday night against the Kraken will be seen as one of those watershed games.

“Probably the same amount of nerves and butterflies playing in front of the home crowd for the first time,” said Horvat, who admitted to being “really nervous” during his Islanders’ debut in Monday night’s 2-1 win in Philadelphia.

“I’ve only played in the building once, on the away side of it. So excited to be on the home side.”

The Islanders acquired the 27-year-old center on Jan. 30 for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a top-12 protected first-round pick, then signed the former Canucks captain to an eight-year, $68 million extension on Sunday.

“It’s going to be great,” said Mathew Barzal of Horvat's home debut. Barzal has slid to right wing to play on a line with Horvat. “[The fans] are all excited, as they should be. We got a great player. He’s going to have a lot of great moments at UBS.”

“He’s a professional and he will handle it just fine,” coach Lane Lambert said before Tuesday’s match. “Our fans are great. It’s going to be exciting to get in front of them. They always give us a boost.”

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Introducing a cornerstone player to the home crowd is nice for the present. But what will really create special moments at UBS Arena are long playoff runs, such as when the Islanders reached the NHL semifinals in both 2020 and 2021 for the first time since 1993.

The NHL conducted its 2020 postseason in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton because of the pandemic. The following year was the Islanders’ final hurrah at Nassau Coliseum.

Lou Lamoriello’s move to bring Horvat, who instantly became the Islanders leader in goals and points both overall and on the power play, showed the president/general manager and ownership’s strong desire to host playoff games at UBS Arena this season.

The Islanders entered Tuesday ninth in the Eastern Conference with the same 57 points as the Penguins, who held the second wild-card spot. But the Penguins had played four fewer games. In reality, the Islanders are chasing the Capitals, who held the first wild-card spot with 60 points and had played the same amount of games.

The Islanders have three games remaining with both the Penguins and Capitals.

“Moving forward, we know what we have to do as a group,” Lambert said. “We’ve got to string together some wins. That’s the focus right now.”

The Islanders’ modest three-game winning streak entering Tuesday was their longest since winning three in a row from Dec. 23-29. In between, they went 2-8-3.

Hence, the urgency to acquire a player of Horvat’s caliber well ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 3.

Now, the question becomes whether Lamoriello can still swing another trade or two to bolster the Islanders’ playoff chances. The team still could use more scoring help among their top-six forwards and, possibly, a strong-skating defenseman who can join the rush.

With one deal made, it could leave some players on edge that another is coming.

“You would have to ask the players that question,” Lambert said. “Our focus is, every day, getting better in our game-to-game aspect. From that standpoint, everyone just has to focus on the job they have to do.”

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