UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders don’t seem to have an answer for what has made them so successful on Nassau Coliseum ice this season. They extended their luck at home on Monday with a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The victory moved the Islanders to 5-0-1 in their first six games on home ice.
“I was thinking about that myself,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said prior to Monday’s win over Buffalo. “I don’t have an explanation for (the home success). I think it’s just your comfort. You have a little bit more freedom. That type of thing.”
Those five home wins have come with only media and team staff inside the Nassau Coliseum, which has become notorious around the league for its boisterous atmosphere. While the building was slightly modernized several years ago, the main charm of the Coliseum stems from the fans that inhabit it.
Like many of the teams around the NHL, the Islanders have started the year without fans in the building.
“Our fans make a big difference to us,” Trotz said. “I don’t have an explanation, I wish I did because I’d bottle it and try to sell it to the other 29 teams. I don’t have an answer for you.”
There have been plenty of adjustments to be made this season with COVID protocols put in place by the league that restricts player movements at home and on the road. Unlike during the playoff bubble, players are much more isolated during road trips except for when they are at the rink.
Still, Cal Clutterbuck maintained that not much has changed in his routine.
“Getting ready for games hasn’t really changed a whole lot,” Clutterbuck said. “The only thing that’s different is you get two Q-Tips shoved up your nose in the morning and there’s no people in the stands when you play. Those are the two differences as far as our routine goes. How we prepare, that’s all the same.”
Whatever the case may be, the Islanders will want to take advantage of their home ice success as they begin a long stretch of home games. Monday was the first in a span that will see them play nine times at the Nassau Coliseum over their next 10 games.
The Islanders face Boston on Thursday and then play back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s really nice (to be back home),” Anders Lee said. “The way everything is set up this year the road trips are a little bit longer and just the way everything is going it’s nice to have a little bit of a stand here. Get back at home on our ice. It will be nice to be back and get things going here.”
Tuesday marked the return of fans into sports venues in New York state and the NBA’s New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets were the first to welcome back spectators. The New York Rangers will welcome a small number of fans back on Friday when they face Boston.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing 10 percent capacity at sporting events in the state. The Islanders have not released details about when they will begin letting fans back into the Coliseum for home games.
Coincidentally, they will play in front of spectators at least once during their stretch. The Islanders only game on the road will be on March 2 in New Jersey, which will be the first game the New Jersey Devils can host fans after Gov. Phill Murphy announced that sports venues can reopen at 10 percent capacity in the Garden State.