Two seasons ago, the Islanders had little choice but to start on the defensive as the league sent them on a 13-game road trip as they waited for UBS Arena to be completed.
A 5-6-2 start felt at the time like a reasonable pittance, but was in retrospect the beginning of the end, with a COVID-19 outbreak starting on the last leg of the trip and four weeks on the road taking a massive toll on the group.
This year is as close as they can get to the complete opposite, with nine of their first 13 games at home and no multi-game trips until the middle of November.
So it is vital to set the complete opposite tone and get off to a strong start this season.
After all, every team plays the same number of games — and failing to take advantage of a home-heavy part of the schedule now means the Islanders will have to make up ground with a majority of their games on the road.
“It’s important to win and be a good home team. Try to get out to a good start,” Mathew Barzal told The Post. “That’s always nice, you’re not chasing. So we want to be in a position where we’re not fighting for our lives the last 25 games.
“[That] might be the case and if it is we’ll make the best of it. We want to be competing for the division.”
It was a good start last year — 9-5-0 in the first 14 games — that helped get the Islanders over the line when they were fighting for their lives in April.
And it was the abysmal start two seasons ago — an 11-game losing streak that included the last four games of the aforementioned road trip — that made a decent end to the year meaningless.
Rarely are early-season games contextualized as part of the playoff race.
But that’s just what they’ve been for the Islanders, and that won’t change this season.
“Other teams will have this type of stretch at different points in the year,” Anders Lee told The Post. “Ours just happens to be at the beginning. Let’s go after it.”
Jackson Cates remains on a professional tryout contract, but with AHL Bridgeport, the Islanders confirmed.
Hudson Fasching and Pierre Engvall returned to practice Monday after missing Friday’s preseason game for maintenance.
Cal Clutterbuck was out of practice with an illness.