The Rangers could use the Islanders right about now. Not as a shoulder to cry on but rather one to lean on. A crushing loss of two pivotal playoff points to the Buffalo Sabres last night -- who were without their stud goalie Ryan Miller -- did not color the playoff picture they were hoping for.
Instead of distancing themselves from playoff hopefuls, they allowed the Sabres to jump to seventh place in the East for 87 points all while the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes were pouncing the Montreal Canadiens and gaining ground. The Hurricanes are now only three points away from the eighth place Rangers.
Another troubling number: the Blueshirts have just three goals in their last four games. Enter the Isles who seem to bring out the best in Broadway’s offense. The Rangers have outscored the Islanders 25-16 this season. A large margin victory could swing the Rangers right back into the upward trend they were taking last week. A defeat could send them into a familiar temporary downward spiral which they can’t afford. There’s no time left to lose. With only five games left, the points are that much more vital.
The Rangers and Islanders will both be coming off of back-to- back games and one goal losses. The Islanders comeback hopes from a two goal deficit were thwarted by Andy Greene who propelled the Devils to a 3-2 victory last night in New Jersey just after Isles forward Frans Nielsen scored twice in the third period to make it interesting.
Rangers’ winger Marian Gaborik had five shots on goal last night and was itching to score on the Sabres rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth. He hasn’t scored since March 20 against the Penguins but the Islanders seem to awaken the slumbering sniper in quiet stretches. Gaborik has six goals and three assists in five games against the Islanders this season.
The Isles are a mediocre 4-4-2 in their last ten games while the Rangers backstopped by “the King” have been on a tear, though lately on the brink of fizzling out. They are 8-4-1 for the month of March.
Henrik Lundqvist is playing with the desperation and urgency the Blueshirts need for a playoff berth. He’s posting a 1.67 goals against average and has three shutouts in his last 10 games. The Rangers have won the last four meetings between the two teams.
Bottom line: The Isles will be looking to save face while the Rangers are hoping to save a place in the playoffs.
Rangers @ Islanders
Nassau Coliseum, 7:00 p.m., Thursday
Rangers record: 41-31-5
Islanders record: 29-36-12
vOy Vey: Wojtek Wolski continues to be highly impressive at being unimpressive. For a forward with crafty hands, his consistent lack of ability to generate any kind of energy on offense is surprising, especially at a time when the Rangers can use all the goals they can get. He can typically be seen on the bench in the third period and has filled into Alexander Frolov’s (season ending knee injury) “role” seamlessly since being acquired in a trade.
Go Shortie: Islanders’ Frans Nielsen leads the league in shorthanded goals with seven.