Uniondale, N.Y. — When the regular season schedule comes out in the summer, most players don’t pay attention.
They’ll live it when the time comes, and anyway, it becomes a blur anyway.
But for Frans Nielsen, when the schedule came out in June, he couldn’t wait. Nielsen wanted to know whether the Red Wings would be playing at the refurbished Nassau Coliseum when the Wings visited the New York Islanders.
“I’m not going to lie, I did look at the schedule when it came out to see if we were going to play at the Coliseum or not,” said Nielsen, who played for the Islanders — at the Coliseum — for 10 seasons before joining the Red Wings. “It’s definitely going to be different than playing in Brooklyn.
“I’m excited, I never thought I was going to play there again.”
The Islanders are splitting their home schedule between the Coliseum and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They’re expected to open a new arena near Belmont Park on 2021.
This will be the Red Wings’ first game at Nassau Coliseum since March 2015.
Nielsen scored his first goal in the arena, experienced his first NHL playoffs there, and was consistently amazed by the support and passion of Islanders fans.
“A lot of great memories. It means a lot to me, that place,” Nielsen said. “It’s fun to go back. It’s awesome that some of these young kids in here (the Red Wings’ locker room) get to play a game there.
“It’s very similar to the Joe (Louis Arena). It’s really loud. Now that they (the Islanders) came back again, the fans are a little more excited there, I’ve heard, and it’s like a playoff atmosphere every night when they’re playing there.”
Nielsen went back to the comparison of Joe Louis Arena, where maybe the rink didn’t have the creature comforts of the newer arenas around North America, but had a special place in the heart of the home fans.
“The Joe was old, too, but it’s special to everyone in here,” Nielsen said. “It was just the same (with Nassau Coliseum). There is history, they won four Cups and you still see those guys. When you talk to fans around there, that place meant so much to those people in the heyday when they were winning.
“It was old and it is old. But it’s just like the Joe. It’s a pretty cool place.”
When the Wings and Islanders met last week, the game turned unexpectedly physical, especially after Niklas Kronwall crushed the Islanders’ Anders Lee with an open-ice hit that forced Lee briefly out of the game to get stitches.
Dylan Larkin got into an altercation with Josh Bailey, after Bailey nailed Kronwall in the corner.
Some people feel the edginess could carry over into Saturday’s game, although Blashill wasn’t so sure.
“Every game has a life of its own,” Blashill said. “We have to go win the hockey game. We can’t worry about anything else. If they want to worry about extra-curricular stuff, then let them worry about it.”
Blashill was more concerned about Friday’s loss against Ottawa.
“We had an opportunity to win at home and we didn’t win,” Blashill said. “We have to go find a way to win.”