An unavoidable sidebar to Saturday night's Islanders-Philadelphia Flyers proceedings was the return to Nassau Coliseum by Mark Streit in new clothes.
Philadelphia's orange and black aside, he immediately was recognizable for what he had been the previous five years in these environs, assisting on two of his new team's three first-period goals in a 5-2 Philadelphia victory.
"Emotional game for me," Streit said. "I tried to just stay focused and play the game. But it was tough. I'm just happy we got the win and played a pretty good game."
Streit, 35, may not have been an emperor during his Islanders tour, but during the team's darker days, he was chief cook and bottle washer -- capably handling disparate chores, a defenseman who led a last-place team in scoring, a trigger on the power play. He also was captain of the first Islanders team to make the playoffs in six years.
Against the Penguins in May, Streit experienced that long-awaited postseason series, what he called his "most memorable moments" at the Coliseum. "I mean, having the building full," he said, "a really great atmosphere, the people, the excitement of the towns around . . . "
A month later, about to become a free agent, he was traded to Philadelphia.
"I think once I packed up , I realized that probably my time here had come to an end," Streit said. "You know, they're building within the draft and they're coming along really nice. I mean, guys like Johnny [Tavares] and Bailes [Josh Bailey] and [Kyle] Okposo, all those guys.
"They're getting better every year, so they want to keep that going. I don't know; maybe they think they didn't want to screw up the chemistry, but that's their decision. I didn't really expect that they were going to go crazy on the free-agent market."
Streit has "moved on," as Islanders coach Jack Capuano put it, not unkindly. He is one of "them" now, and the business at hand was a professional game against friends and colleagues he had known so recently as "us."
A Swiss native, Streit has had several North American hockey homes, from minor-league Springfield to Montreal and the Island. But the long stay here brought the most memories and "a lot of great friends, not just in hockey.''
Said Streit, "They did a lot for me. They gave me the opportunity to play as a full-time defenseman. I made the All-Star team. I was captain for two years. I mean, that's an unbelievable achievement. And we made the playoffs in the last year, so a lot of great memories."
He has kept an eye on the Islanders' results. "That's natural," he said. He stays in personal touch, via texting, "with a few of those guys once in a while. I don't live on another planet."
But hockey is a cold world. It was past Streit's leg that his close friend, Islanders center Frans Nielsen, sneaked a shorthanded goal in the second period.
Streit smiled. "If somebody had to score," he said, "at least it was him."