Brooklyn Boro

Isles soak in creature comforts in exhibition opener

Top Flyers, 3-2, in Split-Squad Preseason Contest at Barclays Center

September 22, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
John Tavares and Anders Lee converge on the Philadelphia net following the Islanders’ first tally during Monday night’s 3-2 exhibition victory over the Flyers before a sparse but enthusiastic crowd at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP Photo
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It was only fitting that Brooklyn’s captain, John Tavares, christened the Barclays Center ice with a late first-period goal Monday night, sparking the New York Islanders to a 3-2 preseason-opening victory over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers in front of a sparse but enthusiastic crowd at the franchise’s new Downtown state-of-the-art arena.

Tavares, a Hart Trophy finalist in two of the past three seasons, is expected to lift the Islanders, who have not won a playoff series since 1993, to new heights during their first season here in Brooklyn.

The 25-year-old center capped a furious first-period assault by the building’s newest inhabitants with 56 ticks remaining in the opening stanza when he tipped in a shot by Josh Bailey to open the scoring with a power-play goal.

The Islanders, who outshot Philadelphia 14-3 over the first 20 minutes, also got goals from Anders Lee and Kirill Petrov en route to their second victory in three Barclays Center games since the franchise announced its relocation plans from Long Island.

“Sometimes you just go out there and trust your instincts, make some plays, shoot the puck and good things happen,” said Tavares, who also registered an assist on Lee’s power-play tally early in the second period.

“It’s always good to capitalize when you get those chances and build some confidence early.”

Starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 12 of 13 shots for the Islanders, who spent most of the day getting acquainted with their new locker room facilities, which were still under construction at Barclays Center during their previous two visits here prior to the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns.

Tavares, for one, took quickly to the creature comforts of the team’s facilities.

“It’s beautiful. They did a great job,” he noted on the team’s website. “Not only do we have a lot of space, but it’s the right amount of space. Sometimes you can have too much and as a team we’re a really close group, so it’s nice to still spend a lot of time together, be with one another and obviously take advantage of the new bells and whistles.”

“It’s impressive,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano added. “They have the best of everything. Even the coaching side of it and the support staff, it’s pretty impressive. They left no stones unturned. It’s great to have it and it’s going to be very comfortable for the guys.”

The other half of the Islanders’ split squad, which suffered a 4-3 loss to the Flyers in Allentown, Pa., Monday, will get its first look at the Barclays ice on Wednesday, when New York hosts the New Jersey Devils here for the third consecutive preseason.

Capuano, still in the process of figuring out who will make the final roster for the historic Oct. 9 regular-season opener against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, hinted at the type of players he wants in the traditional orange-and-blue uniforms this season.

“[We’re looking for] guys that compete, guys that want it,” Capuano said. “Guys that are tough to play against. We have to create an identity and an environment that we want to build off last year. Some guys are doing it right now; you can’t go through the motions. There’s too much competition here at camp.”

The Islanders actually commuted to the Barclays Center on Monday via the L.I.R.R, which dropped them off at the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street/Barclays Center station following their morning skate at the team’s Iceworks facilities on Long Island.

Like most professional athletes, the Islanders are creatures of habit, and have to develop a regular routine as to how they will arrive in Downtown Brooklyn to prepare for each game as the season progresses.

“Getting in here this morning was important for everyone to gauge their time,” Tavares said. “Time to get up, when to eat, get ready to get on the ice and whether you’re not skating what to do in the morning, meetings, etc.

“It’s a lot different now, but it’s just a change,” he added. “I think you’ll get used to it, just like anything, just like we had daily life at the Coliseum.”

Capuano was impressed at the quality of the ice at Barclays, something that was an issue during the team’s first two visits here the previous two preseasons. He noted that the surface was ready to play on despite a Madonna concert at the arena on Sunday night.

“The ice is good,” he said. “It’s a lot better after a concert than what I’ve been on in the past at other rinks. They’ve worked extremely hard and the ice surface looks good to me.”

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