The Arizona Coyotes are playing in a home arena that would normally be considered unfit for an NHL team.
Most of the New York Islanders have an idea of what that’s like. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, that’s where the similarities between the teams end.
The Islanders are slated to make their first trip to Mullett Arena Friday night, when New York continues a cross-country road trip by visiting the Coyotes in Tempe, Ariz.
Both teams have been off since narrow defeats Tuesday night, when the visiting Coyotes lost to the San Jose Sharks 3-2 and the Islanders fell to the Boston Bruins 4-3 via shootout.
The loss was the fifth in seven games (2-4-1) for the Islanders, though coming back from a two-goal first-period deficit and eventually earning the loser point allowed them to tie the New York Rangers for fourth place in the competitive Metropolitan Division and remain in a playoff spot as of Thursday morning.
“A couple of bad breaks, we’re down 2-0,” Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson told Newsday after the game. “To come out in the third period, down a goal and get things tied up, it’s a big point for us. It’s a good building block for the road trip.”
Heading to a 5,000-seat arena, located on the campus of Arizona State, will bring back memories for the Islanders, who played some or all of their home games at 13,917-seat Nassau Coliseum from 2018 to 2021.
New York returned to the reduced Coliseum — where the team played from 1972 until exiting for a short-lived stay in Brooklyn following the 2014-15 season — while construction was completed at their new home in Elmont, N.Y. Eighteen current members of the Islanders were on the 2021 team.
The Coyotes, whose arena lease in the suburb of Glendale wasn’t renewed after last season, are expected to play at least the next three seasons at Arizona State while they attempt to get a new building constructed nearby in Tempe.
“When we had the temporary set-up, obviously, you’re not really too sure how things are going to shake out for the future — there’s a lot of chatter about different things and different possibilities,” Islanders center Brock Nelson said. “I’m sure they’re doing as best they can here trying to make this feel as much like home as they can.”
The Coyotes’ bid to build a new arena coincides with a lengthy rebuilding program for the club, which has missed the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons and has advanced beyond the first round just once since relocating from Winnipeg.
Of the nine players to score at least 20 points for the Coyotes during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, just three — Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz — are still with the team. Only two teams this season — the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks — entered Thursday with fewer standings points than Arizona, which finished next-to-last in the NHL last season with 57 points.
The Coyotes gave up a pair of goals in the first five minutes Tuesday as their two-game winning streak was snapped. Arizona’s only other win streak this season was a three-game run from Nov. 5-10.
“We didn’t start off the way we wanted to,” Coyotes center Nick Bjugstad said. “We had some spurts there where we weren’t on the same page. I thought we were a little lackadaisical as an entire unit. It’s tough when you start out like that.”
–Field Level Media