Even by the standards of hockey, in which whole lines and defense pairings are changed on the fly, this was unique. The Islanders had to change coaches right before the game.
Jack Capuano, who was at Nassau Coliseum for the morning skate and said he was excited about finally starting the season, had to miss Saturday night's game because of an attack of kidney stones. Assistant coach Doug Weight took his place.
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It came as a surprise to the players, who said they found out about the switch during their final pregame meeting before their 2-1 loss to the Devils.
"That's pretty unusual," defenseman Andy MacDonald said. "But the coaches addressed it and that was that. All the coaches are very active and involved in all of our talks and all of our meetings. They all preach the same thing. I'm sure Cappy knows we were in good hands."
Newsday's Arthur Staple tweeted Saturday night: "Just got a text from Jack Capuano: 'Out of surgery, feeling much better.' ''
Travis Hamonic, who scored the Islanders' only goal, said Weight and fellow assistant coach Brent Thompson didn't miss a step in getting the team ready after only a week of training camp and no preseason games following the lockout.
"We probably found out the same time you guys did," Hamonic told a reporter. "Our whole coaching staff have the same message. It wasn't much of a difference. Obviously, we missed him on the bench and we hope he's going to be OK. I know when he gets back out there next time, he's going to be excited. It was just unfortunate."
Matt Martin said, "We had a hockey game to play. We still went off Cappy's game plans. We didn't change anything. Hopefully, he'll be good to go Monday."
No matter who was coaching, it was going to be an odd night, considering that players still are getting in shape and some had not played a game with each other before. "We're not going to use that as an excuse in here," Hamonic said. "Everybody is in the same circumstance."
Capuano spoke of the anticipation he felt in the morning, when he also felt so much pain that he did not get on the ice. "We've looked forward to this all summer long," he said. "I know that the players are exited, our coaching staff is excited and most important, the fans are, too. Hopefully, we'll put on a good show."
The night proved more eventful and much more painful than he had anticipated.