EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — It’s almost easy to forget that Barry Trotz was once the head coach of the Washington Capitals after the year he had behind the bench for the Islanders.
Still, the reminder comes up every once and a while, especially with the Capitals in town to open up the year against the Isles at Nassau Coliseum. Now, in his second year as the bench boss of the Islanders, a game against his former club feels a lot more normal.
“I’ve had closure with the Caps, but there’s a lot of good friendships,” Trotz said after the team’s morning skate. “We obviously did something pretty special, so that’s always going to be there. But it’s more regular now. … It’s just we’re playing the Capitals and I know a lot of people over there.
“It’s just regular.”
The Islanders open the season against one of the Metropolitan Division’s best teams in the Capitals on Friday night on Long Island. The Islanders haven’t played a home opener at the Nassau Coliseum since Oct. 11, 2014, when they hosted Carolina.
That fact does have Trotz a little excited, considering the energy the building has brought the team since they began playing home games there part-time last season.
“We need their help,” Trotz said, referring to the fans. “Get started early, get the fun going and bring that energy into the arena. It will help us. We’re going to need it all playing Washington.”
The Islanders will catch a bit of a break with rookie Ilya Samsonov set to make his NHL debut on Friday. The Capitals are slated to play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, so Samsonov will get the nod against the Islanders while regular starter Braden Holtby will backup after starting against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
The Capitals will also be without Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is serving a three-game suspension for “inappropriate conduct.”