Islanders @ Rangers
Madison Square Garden, 7:00 p.m., Tuesday
Rangers record: 36-30-4
Islanders record: 27-32-11
The Islanders have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the start of the new year, and the Rangers will certainly have their work cut out for them when they host their long-time rivals tonight at MSG. The last time these two teams met, the Rangers came out with the decisive win in a 7-2 thrashing of the slumping Isles. This time, the outcome is by no means as predetermined.
Tied with the Washington Capitals for the most points in the NHL earned since mid-December, the Islanders have begun to really turn their season around. Although the Isles are still eleven points behind the eighth place Rangers, the Islanders are determined to make every last game count; however, two overtime losses to the Devils this past week did not exactly fuel the team’s post-season hopes.
The Islanders have a minus-27 goal differential, while the Blueshirts boast a plus-27, thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist’s performance between the pipes. The Islanders’ disastrous goalie situation recently took a turn for the better when the organization acquired former Ranger Al Montoya from Phoenix. Montoya has posted a superb 7-2-3 record since joining the Islanders’ roster, earning a shutout in his very first New York start.
The Islanders’ offensive stars are also not to be overlooked: Another ex-Ranger, PA Parenteau, is tied with Matt Moulson for second-most points on the Isles’ roster, the latter holding a team-high 29 goals. Michael Grabner is just behind him with 28 goals, leading all rookies in the NHL.
The Rangers come back home to the Garden after an important win in San Jose, thanks to Brandon Dubinsky’s game winning shootout goal and a hard-working New York team. The unstoppable Brandon Prust, who took an especially hard beating in San Jose after an entire season of gritting his teeth through injuries, may sit out his first game tonight. If he does, Sean Avery is expected to rejoin the line-up in his place.
The Rangers recognize the challenge that a young, speedy, determined Islanders team will pose for them, and they intend to bring their A-game tonight to earn an important win in front of the Garden Faithful.