The New York Islanders are heading into their penultimate home opener at the Nassau Coliseum trying to end a four-game slide in such contests.
They used some excellent play at home to close last season to gain their first playoff berth in six seasons.
The Islanders return to the Coliseum on Saturday night to face a familiar nemesis in Marian Gaborik, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
New York (1-0-0) will move to Brooklyn in 2015-16, giving the franchise two more seasons in Nassau County. The loyal Long Island fans were treated to a 5-0-1 surge at home to close last season as the Islanders advanced to a six-game, first-round loss to Pittsburgh.
The Islanders got this season off to a winning start with a 4-3 shootout victory at New Jersey on Friday. They prevailed despite not getting a point from John Tavares - who was third in the league with 28 goals a season ago.
The unheralded Michael Grabner had two goals and an assist before Matt Moulson scored the only goal of the shootout in the sixth round. Grabner posted two two-goal efforts last season.
"It was great plays by my linemates finding me," Grabner said. "I was trying to get to open ice and they made some great plays where I could use my speed and capitalize on my chances."
Islander fans won't be happy to see Gaborik, who had 18 goals and 10 assists in 20 games against the club while playing for local rivals, the New York Rangers. Gaborik, traded by the Rangers to Columbus on April 3, has scored in each of his last seven meetings with the Islanders.
The winger had a goal and an assist Friday, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 4-3 home loss to Calgary in the Blue Jackets' season opener. Columbus (0-1-0), playing for the first time as an Eastern Conference club, twice rallied from a goal down in the first period before allowing two in a 42-second span in the decisive third.
"We tied it up and they got two big goals,'' Gaborik said. "The third period, it was really nervous hockey. We have to execute better and learn from the things we didn't do well today.''
Sergei Bobrovsky, winner of the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie last year, made 26 saves.
Columbus won seven of its final nine road games last season, and plays five of its next six away from home.
"I'm excited that we get to go to New York, it's their home opener," coach Todd Richards said. "It should be another great environment. They're coming off a fairly successful season, I'm sure they were disappointed that it ended more quickly than they wanted to."
There is no word on the status of Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury during practice Wednesday.
The Blue Jackets are 9-1-3 with one tie in the all-time series. The last three meetings in New York have been decided by one goal.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- New York Islanders
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Marian Gaborik
- Michael Grabner