Yesterday night was clearly not a fun night for the Rangers. They had a chance to basically lock up a playoff spot, but instead fall into 8th place. With their win against the Canadiens last night, the Hurricanes are only three points behind the Rangers. Thus, this is an extremely important game for the Rangers. No excuses. We’ve abused them the whole season and that shouldn’t change tonight. The Islanders are out of the playoff picture officially, but you know they’d love nothing more than to play spoilers and attempt to help knock the Rangers out of the playoffs. Still, this is a game that the Rangers should win as long as they show up.
Henrik Lundqvist- Henrik’s neck has been messed up twice in recent games and we saw him limping after taking a puck to his knee last night. The Rangers called up Cameron Talbot, leaving Rangers fans panicking, but apparently it was just precautionary. Lundqvist will be making the start tonight. The Rangers’ loss last night surely can’t be blamed on him. Despite being banged up, Lundqvist has only let in 2 goals in his last 4 games, which is absolutely ridiculous. He’s 4-1 against the Islanders this year. I expect the usual top notch performance unless his injuries are that bad.
Al Montoya- No DP tonight. Instead, we get the former Rangers first round pick again. Montoya was nothing short of terrible in his previous and only other start against the Rangers, letting in 5 goals in two periods before being pulled. You have to think he’ll want to make up for that performance tonight, especially against the team who sent him away. Montoya is 8-4-4 with a 2.35 and .923 save percentage this season.
Marian Gaborik- 9 points in 5 games against the Islanders this year, and 10 goals in 10 games against them in his career as a Ranger. His production has dipped the past few games, so hopefully he can really come through tonight with some big plays.
Islanders PK- The Islanders lead the league in shorthanded goals this season, and Tortorella usually uses a forward on the point. Grabner and Nielsen are fast and good on the transition, so the point men better be awake. Keep the puck deep and don’t try to make perfect plays. That being said, their actual penalty killing is below the league average. The Rangers PP has been awesome against the Islanders the whole season, so it would be nice if they could continue that trend tonight. Update- Grabner was 50/50 to play tonight due to the birth of his son being sometime today. Grabner said on his twitter feed that if he could get to the arena by 5:00 he’d be playing, but apparently that didn’t happen. Thus, the Islanders will be missing him. That’s a break for the Rangers.
Mats Zuccarello- After being the healthy scratch at forward for the past two games, Zuccarello is back in the lineup on a line with Avery and Christensen. Zuccarello has had some good games against the Islanders, getting his first career point against them way back in December and adding another assist in his other game against them. Wolski will sit in his place. Woslki hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games, and while he hasn’t been bad by any means, he’s done little to contribute to the team.
A pretty short preview, but this isn’t a matchup that deserves much discussion. The Islanders, despite how hard they fight, are simply not a good team. The Rangers have won the past four games against them and there’s no reason they shouldn’t win tonight. As depressing as last night was, the Rangers can still take a big step towards clinching a playoff spot. Their magic number right now is 8. A win tonight would require the Hurricanes to play flawless hockey while the Rangers fall apart in order for Carolina to jump New York in the standings. In the words of Al Davis, “just win, baby.”