Isles say Barclays will rock in round two
Players, coaches confident that Downtown Brooklyn is ready to roar
“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”
Veteran New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas unintentionally paraphrased a line from the Eric B. and Rakim hip-hop classic, “In the Ghetto”, this week while discussing the team’s mid-playoff arena switch from NYCB Live, a.k.a., the renovated Nassau Coliseum, to Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“It doesn’t matter where you play, it’s a playoff game and you’ll be excited no matter what,” Cizikas said during a break in the Islanders’ ongoing practice sessions as they continue to await the Carolina Hurricanes or defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
“We’ve been in this position before going to Brooklyn,” he added. “I think we’re just excited to get back to playing.”
Excited, but getting a little antsy as well.
New York clinched just its second postseason series win since 1993 last Tuesday night by completing a four-game sweep in Pittsburgh.
The team has spent the past week-plus figuring out a way to stay sharp and ready for the Hurricanes or Capitals.
If Carolina can best Washington in Wednesday night’s Game 7 in our nation’s capital, the Isles could be hosting Game 1 of Round Two here on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues as soon as Friday or Saturday.
If the Caps continue their reign, the Isles will most likely be back in Brooklyn for Game 3 of that series some time in the middle of next week after playing the first two games in Washington this coming weekend.
The Isles haven’t skated on the Barclays Center ice since a Feb. 16 game vs. Edmonton as New York played each of its last 12 regular-season home games and two playoff wins over the Penguins in Uniondale, N.Y.
But as per the NHL’s Feb. 15 announcement, all Islander home postseason games beyond the first round will be played at Barclays, an arena that helped New York to a solid 12-7-1 mark during the regular season.
The Isles are an impressive 78-48-18 on Brooklyn ice since moving into the Nets’ facility full-time back in 2015.
They have also produced their only previous playoff series win since ’93 here back in 2016, when former team captain John Tavares’ Game 6 overtime winner against Florida sent them into a second-round series with eventual Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay.
So, there isn’t much to worry about when it comes to re-finding their comfort zone on the often-criticized playing surface here in our fair borough, especially once the Caps or ‘Canes finally show up.
“Barclays was an outstanding atmosphere in the Florida and Tampa series a few years back,” forward Matt Martin said of the playoff rounds played here in Brooklyn in 2016.
“When you’re talking regular season games and fans live in Suffolk County on a Tuesday and Thursday coming to a game, it’s tough,” he added. “But during the playoffs our fans are going to be there, and they’ll blow the roof off the place like they always do.”
One small inconvenience for the Isles, who have practiced and played all their home games on Long Island for the past two months, is that they will have to take a 45-minute train ride into Brooklyn before each remaining home playoff game.
“From our side, all the amenities, like the dressing rooms, are better,” Isles first-year head coach Barry Trotz said of the Barclays. “The only difference is a little bit of convenience and we’ll take that out. That won’t be a big deal.”
“It’s not a distraction, we did it all year long with the split,” Isles team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello added. “Why should it get in the way right now? This is the most exciting time of the season, and this is why you play.”
Playing is something the Isles can finally get back to this coming weekend, be it here in Brooklyn or in D.C.
Either way, the return to action will doubtlessly provide a measure of relief for a team that has spent the past being peppered with questions about how the week-and-a-half break would impact their performance, and the ongoing queries regarding the unorthodox switch of home arenas during the playoffs.
“You’re always itching to get out there and play,” Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield said.
“I think you can get into a grind and it can get hard on the body and the mind, but now we’re itching and guys are ready for Game 1. It’s exciting.”
In local college sports news, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s basketball program has a new leader.
Former Duke University assistant Rene Haynes was officially named the 12th head coach in the 54-year history of women’s hoops at the Downtown Brooklyn school during Tuesday’s afternoon press conference at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Haynes, who played at Michigan State and also served as an assistant coach at Western Michigan prior to her five-year tenure with the Blue Devils, is inheriting a program that went a dismal 4-25 overall last season, including a 3-15 mark in Northeast Conference play.
“It is an honor to be the head coach of the Long Island University women’s basketball program,” Haynes said in a school-issued statement.
“With the support of LIU President Kimberly Cline and all of the administration, I believe that we will build a championship program. Special thanks to Dr. Kevin White and Nina King at Duke University for all of their support and leadership through the years.”
Haynes was an important part of the staff at Duke under legendary Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie, whom she also played for at MSU from 2003-07.
“Coach P has been my coach, mentor and philosopher since I was 16-years-old,” Haynes revealed. “She gave me the opportunity to be a coach and role model to many, and it is so appreciated. I am excited to start this new chapter, and I am excited to continue my journey of empowering strong women.”
The Blackbird women have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2001 — their only appearance — while the men’s program has done so four times over the past decade, including 2018 under current head coach Derek Kellogg.
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