Tonight the New York Islanders come to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers at 7:00pm.
The Rangers enter tonight’s match-up as the second place team in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 27-21-3 for 57 points. Talbot has a 10-3 record this season with 1.62 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. The team is confident and comfortable with Talbot in net, which makes tonight’s last-minute switch even less of a problem. The resurgence of Derek Stepan with four points in his last four games for a total of nine goals for 31 points has propelled his into third in points on the team. Rick Nash posted three goals in the last two games now leads the team with 14 total goals. He also leads the team with six game winning goals. Having played only 34 games out of 51 this season, Nash has 23 total points; that’s .7 points per game. Brad Richards maintains his points lead with 13 goals for 37 points, with Mats Zuccarello only two points behind. Richards also has 10 points in his last nine games. The Rangers have managed to get a constant fore-check going and have started to get a physical game going. The top four players in hits are Dan Girardi (124), Chris Kreider (109), Brian Boyle (101), and Ryan Callahan (99). Girardi and Ryan McDonagh remain well separated from the rest of the team with 92 and 85 blocks, respectively. The team has done a very good job of staying out of the penalty box, on the whole. Kreider still takes a few too many careless penalties at the worst possible moment. The Rangers have won seven of their last nine games.
The Islanders are 20-24-7 with 47 points and are eighth in the Metropolitan Division. Starting goal tender Evgeni Nabokov is out tonight with a lower body injury so Kevin Poulin will get the nod for his team. Poulin is 10-14-0 on the season with 3.10 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. The Islanders will also be without defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and Travis Hamonik. Kyle Okposo posted 15 points in his last 19 games giving him 20 goals for 40 points on the season. John Tavares enters tonight’s match-up on a three game point streak. Tavares leads his team with 23 goals for 59 points. Thomas Vanek has a five game point streak in progress and has posted 15 points in his last 16 games. His season totals are 13 goals for 34 points. Look for Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Colin McDonald to bring physicality to the ice. They have 249,164, and 114 hits respectively. Matt Carkner leads his team in penalties in minutes with 93, look for him to taunt Daniel Carcillo into dropping mitts tonight. Despite such high numbers, the Islanders are struggling. They need more consistency from their goal tenders to get better results. The Islanders will try to force penalties against the Rangers to gain power play advantages. The Rangers need to play smart to come away with the regulation win tonight.
Tonight’s match-up sets the stage for the upcoming Stadium Series game between these to rivals. Tensions will be high and every movement will be huge.