The New York Rangers vs The New York Islanders
The puck drops at 7:00pm in Madison Square Garden.
This is the rivalry that didn’t exist to former coach John Tortorella. This is the “subway series” of hockey. We all have that unspoken desire to beat the Isles, and it isn’t a successful season if they end higher on the stat sheets than our beloved Rangers.
After fighting hard against the Penguins to get the point for seeing over time, the Rangers now stand in fifth place of the Metropolitan Division with 34 points based on a 16-17-2 record. Morning skate showed a huge change in lines, not unlike what happened last year under “Torts”. Vigneault has decided to use recently recalled J.T. Miller on a line with Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot, reportedly “hoping the veteran with his experience rubs off on the young player” from the team’s official twitter account. Miller will be centering the line, leaving Richards on the wing. Henrik Lundqvist will be the starting goalie, as reported by Pat Leonard. Thankfully there is no lingering stiffness after the overtime collision in the crease against the Penguins. Also reported is the line of Rick Nash-Derek Stepan- Mats Zuccarello. Other reported lines are Chris Kreider-Derick Brassard-Carl Hagelin with Brian Boyle-Dom Moore-Derek Dorsett, presumably, on the fourth line. Lundqvist has managed to get the Rangers into two straight shootouts in the last two games; turning one into a two point win. Lundqvist enters tonight’s contest ranked 29th among active goal tenders in both save percentage and goals against average with .908 and 2.71 respectively. Although recently the topic of much criticism; Dan Girardi is the team leader in both hits and blocks with 84 and 62 respectively. Close behind Girardi, are Ryan McDonagh with 57 blocks, Kreider with 65 hits and Dorsett with 63 hits.
The Islanders enter the Garden tonight in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 9-19-7 for 25 points. Clearly the Isles are no strangers to shoot outs. John Tavares leads his team in all offensive stats: goals, assists, and points with 13 and 25 for 38 total points. Other notables are Kyle Okposo with 11 goals for 30 points and Frans Nielsen with 11 goals for 27 points. Although a strong player in Buffalo, Thomas Vanek hasn’t seemed to find his groove yet with the Isles; posting only 6 goals for 13 points in 19 games. His points per game average is fairly high but he’s missed considerable time with an injury. If Matt Carkner does what he does best, the Rangers will have plenty of power play opportunities; as long as Dorsett stays out of the “sin bin”. Carkner has 75 penalties in minutes to Dorsett’s 103.
I made it through the entire pregame without saying “fish sticks for dinner”. Oooops, meow.