If John Tavares playing his 500th NHL regular season game didn't make you feel like time is flying by, Frans Nielsen's 600th should.
Nielsen got his first NHL look -- and first twinkle in my eye -- under head coach Ted Nolan. Granted, that was only two coaches ago, but it was also enough time for two-plus years of "overspeed" Scott Gordon plus an interim coach who would become the second-winningest and and second-longest tenured in club history.
That coach, Jack Capuano, had Nielsen in Bridgeport way back when. Though he didn't get much time under Nolan, under Gordon he started being used to check other teams' top players, something many thought wasn't possible due to his smaller size.
Safe to say, he's proven doubters wrong and become a role model for those who have followed:
"Overall when you talk about a guy that a lot of our young guys have learned from at the center position, that’s one guy they’ll point out," Capuano said of Nielsen. "He’s really an extension of our coaching staff."
Islanders (40-25-9, 4th/Metro) vs. Hurricanes (33-28-15, 6th)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+
Brooklyn's [ingloriously sponsored] Center
Face of the storm: Canes Country
Nielsen becomes just the 13th player to reach 600 games all in an Islanders uniform. As always, he downplays the length and impact he's made:
Nielsen says the time has flown by and that he feels like his first game was only four of five years ago, not nine.
"I can’t even believe I’m there right now. It literally feels like my first game was 4 or 5 years back," he said. "Right now you just realize how you just have to enjoy to and hopefully have a lot more games to come."
He's an unrestricted free agent this summer, but something (beyond hope) tells me the two sides will find a way to continue the relationship.
Thomas Greiss starts in goal for the Islanders, who are expected to field the same skaters as in their 4-3 overtime win in Raleigh.
That one required Cal Clutterbuck to tie it early in the third and win it in the waning seconds of overtime, else this matchup could have a much different flavor. In between the meetings, the Hurricanes beat the Devils on the following night to keep their longshot playoff hopes alive. A remarkable 25 of their games have gone to extra time, with a 1-4 shootout record and 8-11 OT record adding to their season's fun.
If Greiss wins, it will end a personal four-game losing streak that started soon after he inherited the reins with Jaroslav Halak's injury. But he insisted to media that the workload increase and pressure hasn't been a factor. Per Brian Compton at NHL.com:
"I don't think so," Greiss said. "When you don't play, you practice a lot. You get a lot of shots in practice. [Playing games] might even be a little easier. It's different, but I don't think it's any tougher on the body."
Oh, knee-jerk fans responding to small samples will be the judge of that.