The Islanders will look a little different tonight when they face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Nassau Coliseum. Along with wearing their old "Home" whites, Hall of Famer Al Arbour will return to coach in his 1500th game as an Islander, alongside Ted Nolan.
On Friday afternoon, the Islanders held a press conference for the official signing of Coach Arbour to a one-day contract. The media frenzy brought some legendary reporters, including New York Times sports writer George Vecsey, who covered the Islanders during Arbour's time behind the bench.
But the focus of the press conference was on the man, who, after 13 years, will finally reach a round 1500 games played for the Islanders when he shares the coaching duties with Nolan.
"It will be a special night for the alumni, the organization and everyone involved," said Arbour. "I'd like to thank Ted, Garth and the owner for making this possible for me. It's a great thrill for my family and me to be back in our hometown of Long Island."
Following the morning skate today, Nolan was asked logistically how the coaching duties would work tonight. His reply: "Al is going to be in charge. The rest of us will just be there to help. If changes are made, they'll have to go through Al."
After watching the past two practices from the stands, Arbour was behind the bench this morning, leg up on the bench just like he would have it when he coached for nearly two decades.
"It's like riding a bike," said Nolan this morning. "He says he's nervous and will sit back, but once 5:30 hits and he goes into the team meeting, I'm sure he'll step right back into the role."
At the press conference on Friday, Coach Arbour recounted many stories during his 19 years as Islanders coach, including skating a young Denis Potvin to the ground after he missed the bus to Philadelphia and his post-game celebration with the owners following the Islanders' Game 7 upset against the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins.
"The former ownership of the team wanted to get rid of David Volek on waivers," recalled Arbour. "He scored the winning goal that night and I remember going into the dressing room. The owners were all around me jumping up and down, celebrating. I said to them 'how do you like David Volek now?' That was the end of me."
There were certainly a number of laughs and some heartfelt moments as Arbour expressed his nostalgic side upon his return to the Coliseum.
"It brings back a lot of good memories," said Arbour. "Once in a while you really think about it, and I've really thought about it a lot since I've been here. I think tomorrow is going to be a big night. All those things are going to come back, especially with me being behind the bench like that. I haven't been behind the bench in something like 14 years."
Arbour enters a scenario in which the Islanders are coming off of a dazzling 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rick DiPietro was brilliant in goal stopping all 28 shots he faced. Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko, Josef Vasicek and Trent Hunter scored the goals, while Mike Comrie picked up two assists.
Said Arbour about the 2007-08 Islanders: "I like Ted's team very much. They've been working hard. They have a lot of character and they come to play the game. That's the big thing. They play hard every night and every shift they play very hard. Anything could happen in those games. Teddy and Garth have done a wonderful job with them."
The Islanders will be without Sean Bergenheim, who sustained a shoulder injury in the game against Tampa Bay. He is day-to-day. Filling in for Bergenheim is Ben Walter, who leads the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with four goals and is tied for the team lead with seven points.
Walter is a former fifth-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins. He was acquired by the Islanders this summer.
Arbour and his squad go head-to-head against a Penguins team that features one of the brightest stars in the game, in Sidney Crosby. The teenage-captain leads the Penguins in goals with seven and points with 19. He has tallied at least one point in all 12 games this season except the first. He has three goals and three assists in the past two games.
"I've seen Crosby a couple of times," said Arbour, who has been to the past two Islanders practices. "I'm used to matching up lines, but I won't be matching this game. He's a pretty good player. He's a named player. But we have a lot of guys here who show heart and character. They're going to show up and they're going to play very well."
But Crosby isn't the only forward the Islanders will have to worry about. Evgeni Malkin, who has a team-high 12 assists – along with Crosby – Jordan Staal, Mark Recchi and Petr Sykora are also dangerous threats.
The biggest question mark for the Penguins has been the goaltending. Former No. 1 overall draft pick Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his last two starts and sits at 4-4-0 on the season. Backup Dany Sabourin has started the past two games, and has been solid in goal.
The Islanders and Penguins claim the second and third best power plays in the league, respectively. The Islanders' penalty kill is three percentage points higher than the Penguins'.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on FSN NY.
Check out the Al Arbour press conference from Friday on Islanders TV by clicking here.
For more information about Al Arbour Night, #1500, click here. And to find out more about the extended coverage, check out this article.
Before you visit the Coliseum or watch the game live on FSN NY or listen live on Bloomberg radio, remember to enter your selections for the Pick 'n' Win game by clicking here.
LIMITED EDITION ARBOUR #1,500 JERSEYS ON SALE
Only 100 Islanders sweaters signed by Al, available now!
Be a part of history when legendary head coach Al Arbour returns to coach his 1500th NHL game this Saturday, when the Islanders battle Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Whether you attend the game or not, you can keep a piece of the game with you forever with an exclusive Al Arbour limited edition signed replica jersey.
The jersey contains an Al Arbour #1500 commemorative patch on the shoulder that each player will wear during the game. In addition, another limited edition numbered patch at the base of the jersey includes Mr. Arbour's signature.
Only 100 of these jerseys will be sold, so act now before it's too late.
To pre-order the limited edition Al Arbour jersey, please visit the Islanders Team Store at the Broadway Mall or e-mail the Merchandise Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. If jerseys still remain, fans cans purchase them directly at one of the merchandise stands during the Al Arbour #1500 contest on November 3.
BELOW ARE THE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR FSN NY ON LONG ISLAND.
FSN NY: 72
FSN NY: 624
FSN NY: 413
FSN NY: 725
FSN NY: 69
Out of market Islanders games can be seen on NHL Center Ice Online by going to Islanders TV and clicking on the Center Ice tab.
Al Arbour by the numbers
Regular Season Games (Same Team) Regular Season Wins (Same Team)
1. Al Arbour/NYI 1,499 1. Al Arbour/NYI 739
2. Billy Reay/CHI 1,012 2. Billy Reay/CHI 516
3. Jack Adams/DET 964 3. Toe Blake/MTL 500
3. Toe Blake/MTL 914 4. Glen Sather/EDM 464
4. Dick Irvin Sr./MTL 896 5. Dick Irvin Sr./MTL 431
Al Arbour, Punch Imlach, Dick Irvin, Glen Sather
Al Arbour, Punch Imlach, Dick Irvin, Glen Sather
AL'S "TOP THREE" GAMES VS. PITTSBURGH
The fact that Al Arbour is not only coming back to coach a game, but to coach against the Pittsburgh Penguins has to bring great memories back for Islander fans everywhere. The Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins met in some of the most memorable games in the franchise's history while Arbour was behind the bench. Here are three games in particular that stand out among the rest:
April 26, 1975 - Quarterfinals Game 7 - 1-0 win: The Islanders put the finishing touches on one of the greatest comebacks anyone has ever seen. After defeating the New York Rangers in the first round of the 1974-75 playoffs, the Islanders were caught flat-footed against the Penguins and lost the first three games of the series. The Orange and Blue fought back in dramatic fashion, winning the next three games – all in regulation – to force a Game 7 back in Pittsburgh. Ed Westfall scored the only goal of the game for a 1-0 win as the Islanders did the improbable. Only three teams in professional sports have ever come from behind after being down 3-0 in a playoff series. Those teams include the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2004 Boston Red Sox.
April 13, 1982 - Patrick Division Semi-Finals Game 5 - 4-3 OT win: After defeating the Penguins by a combined score of 15-3 during the first two games of a five-game series, the Islanders dropped the next two in Pittsburgh, setting up a Game 5 winner take all situation at the Coliseum. After trailing 3-1 with less than six minutes left in the game, Mike Bossy stepped up and fired a rocket that was deflected in by Mike McEwen. As the clock neared two minutes John Tonelli found the puck and was able to put it past the goaltender and just like that the game was knotted a 3-3. More than six minutes had been played in overtime before the Islanders broke free when John Tonelli scored again, this time the game-winning goal to send the Islanders to the next round and complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in NHL history.
May 14, 1993 - Patrick Division Finals Game 7 -4-3 OT win: Al Arbour had one more incredible win left in him in his second to last year as coach. After moving on to the second round of the playoffs, the Islanders found themselves facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had won the Presidents' Trophy and were looking for their third Stanley Cup in a row. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Islanders had other plans. At 5:16 of the first overtime, David Volek took a feed from Ray Ferraro to cap off the upset.
DID YOU KNOW?
81 NHL players remain in the league since Al Arbour's last game during the 1993-94 season. Al hasn't coached any of the players still playing today, but three Islanders were in the NHL the last time Arbour coached: Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger and Chris Simon.
Islanders – Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin 5 goals, 13 points; Comrie, 8 assists, 16 PIM Pittsburgh – Sidney Crosby, 7 goals, 12 points; Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, 12 assists; Sergei Gonchar, 18 PIM
Islanders - Power play: 26.1%; Penalty killing: 87.0% Pittsburgh - Power play: 23.8%; Penalty killing: 83.9%
3 Mark Eaton
4 Rob Scuderi
5 Darryl Sydor
19 Ryan Whitney
32 Alain Nasreddine
44 Brooks Orpik
55 Sergei Gonchar "A"
8 Mark Recchi "A"
10 Gary Roberts "A"
11 Jordan Staal
12 Ryan Malone
16 Erik Christensen
17 Petr Sykora
18 Adam Hall
20 Colby Armstrong
25 Maxime Talbot
27 Georges Laraque
37 Jarkko Ruutu
48 Tyler Kennedy
71 Evgeni Malkin
87 Sidney Crosby "C"