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Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri, a Long Island native, has been an instrumental part of the team’s success since his acquisition at the trade deadline in 2021. While he was not part of the team for the groundbreaking of the UBS Arena in 2019, he has certainly enjoyed some unforgettable moments.
Palmieri helped the Islanders get to Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning including a dramatic overtime victory in Game 6, the Islanders’ final game ever at Nassau Coliseum. He then played in the historic first-ever game at UBS Arena when the Islanders hosted the Calgary Flames on November 20, 2021.
Now, as the Islanders prepare to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Palmieri is gearing up to make history once again. He will be a part of the first postseason game ever played at UBS Arena.
“It will be incredible,” said Palmieri, who born in Smithtown and grew up in Montvale, New Jersey. “I was part of the group in the playoffs that closed down the (Nassau) Coliseum and thinking back to that it was such an awesome experience for everybody. I think it’s definitely going to be one of those things that you look on and really appreciate.”
Between the delay in the building opening last season, the COVID-19 outbreaks and injury woes, the Islanders stumbled through a frustrating 2021-22 season and did not make the playoffs. With that in mind, it took a while for UBS Arena to really feel like home for the Islanders and their fans.
This season, as the Islanders battled for a playoff spot, those special moments started to pop up next door to Belmont Park, including Wednesday night’s playoff-clinching 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The sellout crowd of 17,255 were roaring the entire game, with an explosion of excitement in the final seconds.
One would think there will be similar atmospheres at the home playoff games.
“I know some of the guys who have been here for a while really appreciate having (UBS Arena) as our spot,” said Palmieri, who finished the season with 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 55 games. “Sometimes it takes some games and moments to build what it feels like to be your home arena but the other night the atmosphere was great and I expect no different for the first playoff game there.”
The opening round series against the Hurricanes will commence in Carolina, with Game 1 scheduled for Monday night at 7 p.m. followed by Game 2 on Wednesday night in Raleigh.
The inaugural playoff game at UBS Arena is scheduled for Friday, April 21, at 7 p.m., while Game 4 is slated to take place in Elmont on Sunday, April 22, at 1 p.m.
In the 2019 playoffs, the Islanders were swept by Carolina in the second round and now the Isles have an opportunity to exact some revenge and hopefully advance to a second-round encounter against either the New Jersey Devils or New York Rangers. During the regular season, the Islanders were 1-3-0 against the Hurricanes.
In the playoffs, the Islanders know they are in for a challenge against the Canes.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Palmieri told Greater Long Island after Friday’s practice. “Playing against them in the regular season, they’re always hard games. They play fast and they battle hard. I think it’s two teams that play a similar style and we’re excited for the challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”
This is an exciting spring for local hockey fans as for the first time since 2007, all three local teams are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while the Islanders will be taking on the Hurricanes, Palmieri’s former team the Devils will be battling the Rangers in the first “Hudson River” battle since 2012.
For anyone in the area who plays or loves hockey, it’s a special time. Especially for Palmieri.
“It’s awesome,” said Palmieri. “We’re excited to start a new chapter at UBS (Arena) and I know our fans are excited for it.”
Top: New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)