Islanders to return to Nassau Coliseum on part-time basis

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In a unique arrangement, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that beginning next season the New York Islanders will split time between Barclays Center and their old arena, Nassau Coliseum, until a new rink project at Belmont Park is completed.

The deal is expected to last three seasons with the Islanders playing 12 home games at the renovated Coliseum next season and splitting games between Long Island and Brooklyn through the 2020-21 NHL season.

Islanders captain John Tavares, speaking during All-Star Weekend in Tampa, was very happy with the idea of going back home.

From Newsday:

“The Coliseum is a special place. We had an exhibition game there this year and it brought back a lot of great memories. For me, it’s where I started my career, it’s where so many great things have happened. I really haven’t thought about it a whole lot. But I’ve always said the team belongs on Long Island. It’s where the team was born, created its identity . . . If that’s the case, it’s going to be a great opportunity, a great experience to go back there and to relive — and create some more — great history.”

Tavares, of course, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and the team’s arena issue was something many speculated would have an impact on his decision whether to re-sign.

“There are a variety of things that have to be upgraded, whether it’s the locker rooms, and training facilities and the like. That’s something we’re in touch with the Islanders on,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Saturday. “The Nassau Coliseum has been given a nice refresh in terms of the way it looks, but it’s still the Nassau Coliseum. So anything that may or may not take place there certainly would have to be on a temporary basis.”

There will be plenty of upgrades to the facility before the Islanders set up shop there again, but NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added it’s “not a long-term facility.” The renovated Coliseum can hold 13,900 for hockey, whereas prior to the upgrades it held close to 17,000.

The Islanders played at Nassau Coliseum until 2015 and have spent the past four seasons in Brooklyn at Barclays Center. Last month, the team won the bid for a new arena project by Belmont Park.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

How going back to junior helped Mathew Barzal become a dominant player

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Every hockey player wants to get to the NHL as fast as possible, but sometimes spending an extra year in junior or in the minors can make a huge difference.

Mathew Barzal played two games with the New York Islanders at the beginning of last season before being sent back to the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. There’s no doubt that Barzal would’ve wanted to spend the year in the NHL like fellow rookie Anthony Beauvillier did, but it didn’t end up happening.

Barzal went back to Seattle with the right attitude. He ended up working on his game and having a huge year for the Thunderbirds, his country and himself. He finished his junior campaign with 10 goals and 79 points in only 41 games. Barzal was an influential part of his team’s first ever WHL Championship, as he accumulated seven goals and 25 points in 16 playoff games. He also added two assists in three games at the 2017 Memorial Cup (Seattle went 0-3 in the tournament).

The Isles forward also served as an assistant captain for Team Canada at last year’s World Junior Hockey Championship. It was his second straight season on Canada’s roster. In his first year, he had three points in five games. Last year, he had an impressive eight points in seven tournament games. Unfortunately for Canada, they lost in the gold medal game to Team USA.

“I think (going back to junior) helped,” Barzal told PHT earlier this week. “I think it just let me play my game. I got to play lots of minutes, make a deep playoff run and win a championship. I had a good coach there in Seattle (Steve Konowalchuk) that kept me honest as a 19-year-old. I went to the World Juniors, I got a lot of good experience playing in big games. I think it was just a good development year.”

Through 46 games this season, the rookie has already amassed 16 goals and an impressive 47 points. We’ll never know if he would’ve been able to accomplish that had he not gone back to the WHL last season, but it certainly didn’t hinder his development.

“(Barzal’s) game has skyrocketed since late in October last year when he went back to junior,” head coach Doug Weight said. “He worked on the things he needed to work on. It’s refreshing to see when you have that tough meeting and you challenge him in those things and the things you’re supposed to say as a coach and a friend. He went back and he worked on it and it showed in his game in Seattle.

“He’s had a lot thrown at him and he’s just been terrific.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Isles have Beauvillier, who was developed in a different way. Barzal (15th overall) and Beauvillier (28th overall) were both selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft. Instead of going back to junior, Beauvillier stuck around in the NHL. He finished last season with a modest nine goals and 24 points in 66 games. This year, he seems to have hit a wall while Barzal has been flat-out dominant.

During the Islanders’ bye week earlier this month, they assigned Beauvillier to the minors where he played three games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (he scored two goals). The 20-year-old has eight goals and four assists in 35 games this season.

Unlike Barzal, Beauvillier just seems to be holding on for dear life in the NHL right now. That doesn’t mean he won’t develop into a solid player, but going back to junior and dominating for a year might have been better for his development (yes, hindsight is 20/20).

Most of the talk around the Islanders organization has been about John Tavares potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent in July. Losing their captain would be devastating, but the fact that they’ve helped develop Barzal into a dominant player would lessen the blow if Tavares decides to leave.

Of course if he sticks around, the Islanders would have a formidable one-two punch down the middle for years to come.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Tavares gets back to scoring ways

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Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: Bernier made quite the save on Ryan Kesler, using his paddle to stop a backhand shot after sprawling across his crease in an attempt of desperation. He also stopped 33 pucks and won his sixth straight game in the process.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones made 29 out of 30 saves in the second and third periods in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His 35-save effort was a nice rebound after allowing three goals on six shots and getting yanked on Saturday.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares scored a shorty in regulation on an unassisted breakaway and then the game-winner in overtime to lead the Isles past the Habs in Montreal.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Seguin provided some matinee magic with this overtime winner in Boston. What a goal:

Bernier made this incredible paddle save on a poor Ryan Kesler:

MISC:

Scores:

Stars 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1

Sharks 4, Kings 1

Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Barzal, Tavares shine as Islanders edge Canadiens 5-4 in overtime

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The scary thing about Mathew Barzal is that he may just be gaining steam.

Any time the New York Islanders play these days, it turns into Barzal Watch (in the Twitter world: #BarzalWatch). Even if the Islanders had plummeted as of late with five losses in their past six games heading into Monday, many are just tuning in to see what the dynamic rookie is going to do.

Indeed, Barzal has been lights this season, with 44 points in 44 games prior to Monday and coming off the buzz of a five-point game on Saturday — the second time he’s done that this season.

But John Tavares, who had just one goal in nine games coming into Monday, stole some of that spotlight back with a shorthanded goal in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime in a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Tavares second of the game came 1:51 into over time and after Carey Price made quite the save to stop a redirected attempt by Tavares just before the latter scored the winner.

Barzal was at it again early in the first period as the Islanders jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Barzal fed Anthony Beauvillier with a nice lead pass and the latter ripped home his eighth of the season just down the road from where he grew up in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, beating Carey Price with New York’s first shot of the game.

It was Barzal’s 30th assist of the season and he followed that up with his 16th goal of the year on the Islanders just over five minutes later for the two-goal advantage. Barzal finished with three points and now has 10 in his past three games.

The Canadiens entered the game 2-0-1 in their past three games but were without Phillip Danault due to a puck to the head on Saturday and Andrew Shaw, who was injured in the same game.

Despite their recent success, things looked grim early on, with Price allowing two goals on four shots.

The Hab battled back, first by forcing a turnover in New York’s zone, allowing Jakub Jerabek to quickly find a wide open Nicolas Deslauriers out front to make it 2-1.

Another defensive breakdown by the Isles led to the tying goal as Paul Byron snatched his 12th of the year on a rebound.

Barzal grabbed his third point of the night early in the second period as the Isles restored the lead with Adam Pelech‘s first of the season at 2:37. And the Islanders led by two for the second time as John Tavares scored shorthanded 1:59 later on New York’s 10th shot.

The Canadiens, down two again, needed a second comeback and they put it together beginning with Jonathan Drouin‘s marker with 34 seconds left in the second period.

Montreal completed the comeback on the power play in the third, with Max Pacioretty scoring his 14th at 13:01.

NHL on NBCSN: Islanders look to continue strong second half start vs. Habs

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues as the Montreal Canadiens host the New York Islanders at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Islanders came out of their five-day break rest, refreshed and apparently, ready to score some goals.

On Saturday afternoon, Doug Weight’s men lit up the New York Rangers 7-2 at Madison Square Garden, a phenomenal welcome back after losing five of six heading into the bye week. New York sits one point behind the Rangers for an Eastern Conference wild card spot but are also in the thick of things in the tight Metropolitan Division. While there are some games in-hand to be played by teams, the difference between second place and last in the division is a mere five points.

There’s going to be a lot of movement as these final two-and-a-half months play out, which means it might be tough to not take a peek at the out-of-town scores on a nightly basis.

“We’ve just got to win,” Doug Weight said via Arthur Staple of Newsday. “We put ourselves in a good position early and we kind of put that away; now it’s just a big mess. We don’t need to scoreboard-watch; we need to take care of our business.”

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE]

The Canadiens have a lot more work to do sitting eight points behind the Rangers in the East. They picked up a point during a Saturday night shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, but most concerning was the status of Phillip Danault, who took a Zdeno Chara slapshot to the helmet and had to be stretchered off.

After spending the night at a local hospital under observation, Danault was released on Sunday and is resting at home. His father wrote on Facebook Saturday night that his son was “doing well and his scan came back normal.”

As the Canadiens wait to get Danault back, they have a tough stretch of games this week, which includes two more meetings with the Bruins. Getting good news on their teammate will certainly help with the mindset as they get back to it tonight.

“Phil is a player who plays both ends of the ice. He’s an important player – for the power play, penalty kill,” said Jonathan Drouin. “He’s a big piece of ours at center, but every time someone gets hurt, other guys need to step up.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.