GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Ryan Strome spent four years on the Islanders, playing in both Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Barclays Center, and forever hearing the promises of a grand new arena yet to come.
Of course, he never got to see it when he was there. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2017, before finding his current home with the Rangers. But that hardly means Strome can’t muster up some curious anticipation ahead of their game against the Islanders at the new UBS Arena on Wednesday. The new digs may not be his home, but it’s a home, nonetheless.
"It’s exciting," he said after practice Tuesday. "It’s a good fanbase with a deep tradition; well-deserved for them to have a home for a long time."
Strome said he always thought it would happen – even through his old team’s much-maligned stay in Brooklyn, or the rumors that the franchise would have to move to Kansas City.
"It’s too good of a place to play for the fans," he said. "They’re not going to move a franchise with that. It was just a matter of time. I’m glad they got it done."
But while all that may be true, what’s also true is that the team they face Wednesday will be very different, personnel wise, than the one they’re accustomed to. The Islanders announced Wednesday that Zdeno Chara entered COVID-19 protocol, making him the seventh player on that list, and none are expected back in time for the game. If the game isn’t cancelled – and that’s still a possibility – Barry Trotz’s system, and the team’s regimentation, mean the Rangers can’t bank too much on too many differences, Strome said.
"They’re a team that, they’ll probably play a pretty similar style no matter who’s in the lineup," he said. "They’ve got a great coaching staff and good structure and good, veteran guys. I watched their game the other day. Although they’re missing their guys, they play the same way. They play hard…I don’t think we approach it any differently. Our job is to go in there and play our game. I think it’s more about what we try to do this season and try to get some consistency game to game for us rather than worrying about other teams."
Dryden Hunt, recently promoted to the first line, echoed the sentiment. The Rangers, off to a promising 11-4-3 start, have gotten this far by not underestimating their opponents. Even if their opponents are straight off the bus from the AHL.
"I think when you see teams that have a lot of injuries, there’s guys that step up and those guys who come into the lineup tend to play pretty hard, so I don’t think you prepare any differently," he said. "Obviously, they’ve been known to work super hard, so they’re going to come out and do that."
Gerard Gallant said that doesn’t only apply to the Islanders. It’s too long of a season, he said, to change approach and identity with every new opponent or, in this case, every new COVID outbreak.
"We’ve just got to prepare our team the right way and play our game the way we play it," he said. "It’s an 82-game schedule. You’ve got to prepare a little bit for a certain individual team but for the most part, you’ve got to make sure you play your game."
First line moves
After shaking things up and moving Hunt to the top line Sunday, Gallant indicated Tuesday that, for now, that’s where he’ll stay. Barclay Goodrow moves to center on the fourth line.
"We’ve liked him from Day 1, from the first day of training camp," Gallant said. "I didn’t know the kid real well…but he’s played well. He’s worked hard. He’s played a complete game for us, so it’s an opportunity. I liked what he’d done for us all year – consistency every game."
Lundqvist in primetime
Henrik Lundqvist will be joining the NHL on TNT crew for the game Wednesday evening.