Time To Restore The Rivalry

Tonight the Islanders are facing off against their cross-town rivals, the New York Rangers. The last time these two teams met, the Isles came from behind in dramatic fashion, scoring two goals on a 5-on-3 power play in the final minutes of the third period. Since then the Islanders have dropped in the standings while the Rangers have moved up into the playoff hunt.

Rick DiPietro is in goal tonight when the puck drops at 7 PM at Nassau Coliseum. He is a true component of the rivalry as he has been part of it his whole NHL career. He is remembered for some big wins against this team and even once dropped the glove (and blocker) to take on Al Montoya, a former goaltending prospect for the blue shirts. That game was one that included Chris Simon and Ryan Hollweg. Many of you remember the baseball swing that Simon took to Hollweg's head with his hockey stick the previous year. Since this game didn't matter, players from both teams decided to get some frustrations out in response to the incident.

Although it was something that wasn't supported by the team or management, Simon's swing ignited a rivalry that had become sullen in activity. Both players are not playing for either team anymore and once again the rivalry is at a quiet stand still. But don't tell that to the fans; you might get punched in the face.

Despite the change in personnel over the years, Rick, who missed nearly two years of playing time, still contains the same hatred for the Rangers that he's had since day one. Earlier tonight, Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey tweeted a quote from Rick that should definitely flare a few tempers:

@sealshockey: DP adds fuel to #Isles #Rangers rivalry this AM: "I truly don't like the Rangers. There's nothing better in the world than beating them."

Both teams will have their muscle in the line-up. The bruisers for the Islanders will be Matt Martin, Zenon Konopka and Trevor Gillies, who always enjoy pestering the opposition. Expect Jon Sim to be in Sean Avery's face all night as well.

The best part about this game is that it's the first of two, as the Isles and Rangers will play again tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.

It's a game that has a team playing to maintain position in the standings against their division rivals vs. a team that is looking to establish pride and respect against an opponent that has historically been their nemesis. It should be a good one.

-Rob McGowan

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