It’s not often two blood rivals go into a game privately hoping they’ll lose. After all, what’s a rivalry if both sides lose all the time?
But here, the loss is strategic.
The worse your record, the better chance you have of winning the draft lottery. And, as everybody knows, the prize in this year’s draft lottery is Swedish defenseman, Rasmus Dahlin.
Even a loss doesn’t guarantee either side a shot at Dahlin. But they’d rather up their chances, rather than decrease them.
And who wouldn’t want an all-world stud defenseman capable of being the next Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns?
The answer? Everybody wants him. Especially the Rangers, whose backline corps leaves something to be desired.
So as weird as it sounds, this is one game where the fan bases might just be hoping for their own team’s demise.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
Islanders Head Coach Doug Weight spent parts of three seasons with the Rangers (1990-1993).
Islanders Assistant Coach Scott Gomez wore a Rangers’ sweater for two seasons (2007-08 & 2008-09).
Stan “The Hockey Maven” Fischler first covered the Rangers in 1954. And 21 years later (1975) he was featured on the Islanders first ever telecast.
Therefore, it’s only fitting his last game be between these two teams.
PLAYER TO WATCH
ISLANDERS: MATHEW BARZAL. What more can be said about the Calder Trophy favorite that has yet to be said? The Kid is averaging a point-per-game. And quite possibly he could be ending John Tavares’ time with the Islanders. But that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, the over/under for how many points he’ll have in the game is five.
RANGERS: FILIP CHYTIL. The Rangers’ 18-year-old center is visibly improving with every game. It’s only a matter of time until he starts turning in consistently outstanding performances. And when he does, the rest of the NHL will need to be on high alert.
Mats Zuccarello returns to the lineup after practicing on Wednesday.
Ondrej Pavelec draws the start in net. And Cody McLeod is out with an abdominal strain.
Other than that, there’s been some line shuffling but nothing concrete until warm ups.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG Networks at 7 pm ET. For in-game coverage check out our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
As strange as it sounds, both teams need a loss.
Only a loss can improve their draft positioning.
At least history is on the Rangers’ side. After all, they’ve never won a game at Barclays Center.