GREENBURGH, N.Y. - When the final regular-season game between the Rangers and Islanders at venerable Nassau Coliseum concludes Tuesday night, a scrapbook of memories will be relegated to history.
There could, of course, be a Stanley Cup playoff series between the two rivals, who are battling for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but Tuesday night, a page will be turned.
It will be the 126th and final regular-season game between the teams at the 43-year-old building in Uniondale, and one thing is certain: Even if the Rangers win, the Islanders will forever have an edge in the archives over their Manhattan cousins. The Blueshirts are 52-63-8-2 at the Coliseum.
"So many great players have gone through that building," Marc Staal said, "so it's cool to be a part of that. There's a kind of uniqueness going into those old buildings, the history, the dark lighting, the mustiness, it's a different feel. You'll miss that . . . I wouldn't say I always miss it, but it definitely makes for a different atmosphere on the ice when we go there."
Forget the closet-size visitors' dressing room, which players have compared to those in minor-league rinks. Ignore the leaky pipes. Enjoy the old-school atmosphere on the ice, and in the stands, with dueling -- sometimes vulgar -- chants and taunts, and the occasional fisticuffs, that will resonate long after the Islanders depart for Brooklyn this summer.
"You can hear it [the chanting] on the ice, loud and clear, back and forth . . . having so many Rangers fans there," Staal said. "It was one of the first things that was talked about when I got here [in 2007], and since I've been here, it hasn't let up or been disappointing. They're always hard-fought games. It didn't matter what place you were in the standings or what position you were in, or the time of year."
Cam Talbot, who will start in goal, has sat in the hallway behind the short bench as a backup to Henrik Lundqvist. He was asked Monday about the most memorable things he has heard from the crowd. "I don't even know if you can edit it," he said.
The first Rangers game in Uniondale was on Oct. 21, 1972, a 2-1 win. And naturally, there was a dust-up. Rod Gilbert fought goaltender Bill Smith. That set the tone for the battles over the next decades.
Expect emotions to run high. Each team has won once in the Coliseum this season, and the Islanders are trying to fend off a 10-1-3 run from the Rangers.
"They're a tough team to play against, especially in their building; the last game was probably the most memorable one we had," Mats Zuccarello said of the Rangers' 6-5 win Feb. 16. "And another we won, 1-0 in overtime, when [Dan] Girardi scored [April 13, 2013]. It's just a good environment."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault played 42 games for the St. Louis Blues in 1981-82 and '82-83, when the Isles were winning their third and fourth consecutive championships.
"I remember those teams that won the Stanley Cup and getting the stories from Chico Resch and Lorne Henning, who played there when they were great teams," Vigneault said. "But the [team] they have right now is the one that me and my team need to focus on."