New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers – Battle Of New York
The New York Islanders will take on the New York Rangers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum tonight at 7:00 PM EDT in the biggest matchup these two teams have played in at least five years.
The Isles (21-16-4, 46 points) will try to extend their season-high winning streak at home to five games. They’ll have to do it against a Rangers squad (20-16-4, 44 points) currently chasing them in the NHL Eastern Conference standings.
Both teams know what’s at stake tonight.
The Islanders haven’t made the postseason since the 2006-07 season and would like nothing more than to beat their bitter rivals as they continue their playoff push. The Rangers need a regulation win to keep pace with the seventh-place Isles and solidify their hold on the eighth seed.
The Rangers lead the season series 2-0-1 over the Islanders and will face a heavily pro-Isles crowd at the Coliseum, which has reportedly been sold out for a few days. As of yesterday evening, the cheapest tickets were going for $200 in the secondary market.
The Isles have been on a tear lately, most recently beating the Boston Bruins on the road as they improved to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games overall.
While the Isles have outperformed expectations this season, the Rangers have seen their preseason hopes fade. Originally picked to run through the Atlantic Division and contend for the Eastern Conference crown, the Blueshirts are barely clinging to the last playoff spot late in the season.
The Isles have gotten it done this season on the back of superstar John Tavares, although winger Josh Bailey has paced the team’s offense in recent games, recording six points in his last five games.
Bailey and his line mates have been generating most of the Islanders scoring chances over the past two weeks, which has coincided with the team’s recent run of good form.
Tavares still leads the team in goals (24) and points (42).
The Rangers will have to focus their defensive efforts on the Isles’ top two lines in order to have success. That’s a departure from years past where the Rangers have only had to deal with Tavares’s line to neutralize any scoring threat.
Secondary scoring is now a strength of the Islanders, making this game more evenly matched than most would have expected at the start of the season.
The Islanders will likely try to neutralize Rangers forward Rick Nash in an attempt to prevent the team' best offensive threat from making it onto the score sheet. That task will fall to Bailey, Nielsen and Okposo.
The Isles have great faith in their second line, both for scoring and defense.
The excitement around the Islanders is palpable for the first time in years; fans have been touting this matchup with the Rangers on social media for the past week. If the online chatter is any indication of the type of fans that will be in the seats tonight, the crowd will be raucous.
Which is exactly what Isles fans have been hoping for in this rivalry.
1st line: Moulson -- Tavares -- Boyes
2nd line: Bailey -- Nielsen -- Okposo
3rd line: Grabner -- Aucoin -- McDonald
4th line: Cizikas -- Joensuu – Martin
1st D-pair: Hamonic -- MacDonald
2nd D-pair: Hickey -- Visnovsky
3rd D-pair: Streit -- Martinek
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