Barclays Center already starting to feel like home for Islanders

Barclays Center already starting to feel like home for Islanders

BROOKLYN — There was a lot of the same during Friday night’s New Jersey Devils/New York Islanders preseason game. The Islanders blew a two-goal lead and the Devils ended up losing in a shootout. Just like old times!

There was one difference, however: the venue. For the second straight preseason, the teams dropped the puck at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Islanders will soon call home.

After 43 years and four Stanley Cups, this season marks the final one at Nassau Coliseum for the Islanders. The second-oldest arena in the NHL has been outdated for a long time, and after owner Charles Wang tried and failed several times to revamp the barn once known as “Fort Neverlose,” the option for Brooklyn was presented and the decision to move was made.

There are bigger concourses inside Barclays Center; more food and drink options and other enhancements, including a GQ-sponsored barber shop, that will make the experience better for both fans and players.

“It’s nice to enjoy the new locker rooms and new [amenities],” said forward Colin McDonald. “We don’t have that at the Coliseum.”

As fans get used to heading to a new building for games, so too will players, like defenseman Travis Hamonic, who used a Luke Bryan concert trip earlier this month to scout ways to commute to Barclays Center. (He said he’s leaning toward taking the train over fighting traffic.)

"Looking back on last year, it was a neat experience just because everything that was going on around here, but moreso now that it’s close," Hamonic said. "We’re 12 months away from starting the real thing here. I don’t know if it’s just in our head or what, [but] it did feel a little more like home."

There are also the subtle on-ice differences from the Coliseum to Barclays that only the players will notice.

“The big thing that I’ve noticed is the dark seats,” said Hamonic, "[in] the Coliseum there’s light blue seats. It might seem like a minute detail — and not a lot of people would really pick up on this — but when the puck gets in the glass and there’s all those black seats, it’s kind of tough; you kind of lose track of it for a second. Little things like that you’re going to have to get used to, and I’m sure after a couple of games we’re going to be familarized with the settings.”

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After missing the playoffs last season, the Islanders head into the 2014-15 campaign with playoff expectations. General manager Garth Snow addressed the need in goal by signing Jaroslav Halak and added some offensive depth by bringing on both Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin. Factor in a healthy John Tavares and Kyle Okposo coming off a career season and there’s a lot to be excited about.

While finally moving into a new building will be a big deal one year from now, the Islanders aren’t looking that far ahead just yet.

“We know we’re coming here in a year. If we want to think about [going to Brooklyn] for 12 months, I think, we’re going to waste a whole lot of time,” said Tavares. “For a lot of us, we understand the importance of this year and the disappointment of last year. I think individually, let alone collectively as a group, the importance on each and every day and building toward something and trying to get back to the playoffs.

"That’s where our mind has to be. It can’t be to next season.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!