When: December 26, 7:00 p.m.
Opponent: vs. Islanders (11-16-6)
UPDATE: Marc Staal has been cleared for contact. There is still no timetable for his return and Staal doesn't think he could handle a heavy 25-minute workload yet, but he is very upbeat. Wojtek Wolski is very close to returning and thinks he could know tomorrow if he can return this week. The Rangers will dress the same lineup tonight and Henrik Lundqvist will start in net. (12:29 p.m.)
EARLIER: The Blueshirts deserve credit for not overlooking the
Islanders when the teams last met on Thursday with the highly anticipated
Winter Classic preview match with Philadelphia looming less than 24 hours away.
The Rangers could easily have looked past the Islanders, but
as Henrik Lundqvist explained, this team is “more
mature” than in years past and sets the bar much higher on a nightly basis.
As such, a loss to the Islanders wouldn’t have been
acceptable to this group and so the Rangers turned a strong game into a 4-2
victory, the third game between these two teams this season that has been
decided by that score.
The Christmas break offers New York another plausible excuse
for a sloppy effort and the team will again have to find the right motivation
to get up for Monday night’s game.
The Blueshirts are currently riding a four-game winning
streak and currently lead the Atlantic Division. They sit just one point behind the Eastern
Conference-leading Boston Bruins who are idle on Monday, so if New York can
earn another victory over the Islanders, the Rangers would assume first place
in the conference.
But as many members of the team emphasized following
Friday’s win over Philadelphia, that doesn’t mean a whole lot in late December.
Sure the team would love to be leading the conference, but
right now it is more focused on taking one game at a time and delivering solid
efforts on a nightly basis.
So far this year the Rangers have been able to do that
consistently in spite of a host of distractions and Monday’s tilt with the
Islanders is just another stepping stone.
The Islanders continued to struggle, having lost six of
their last eight games and having received mediocre goaltending from Evgeni
Nabokov, who has started the last three games after Al Montoya was lost to a
The revival of the Islanders has been put on hold as the
team has suffered another wave of injuries and the development of several key
youngsters has stalled. The team is
already 11 points behind the eighth place Ottawa Senators for the final playoff
spot and seems to be going nowhere fast.
By contrast, the Blueshirts spent the first portion of the
2011-2012 season proving that they deserve to be mentioned among the game’s
Another victory over the rival Islanders would vault New
York to the top of the standings, but another game with improvements is of more
concern to the Blueshirts and their coach.
here for our full 2011-2012 Season Archive >
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