One of the NHL's best rivalries has become one-sided lately.
Although the Rangers are .500 and currently out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, they have won both games against the Islanders this season.
The Rangers are unbeaten in six straight meetings (4-0-2) with their biggest rivals dating to a 3-1 home loss on Nov. 23, 2002. The Rangers also have fared very well at Nassau Coliseum, going 10-2-1 there since the start of the 1998-99 season.
Facing the Islanders might be the best thing for the Rangers, losers of three of four, including a 3-2 defeat at Carolina on Thursday.
The Rangers are entering an important part of the schedule, with their next 13 games against Eastern Conference teams.
"We haven't had trouble getting up for those games coming up," Rangers forward Anson Carter said, "but tonight, this is still a conference opponent and now they're that much closer to us. It doesn't matter if the team is across the river or down south, we've got to get points so we're not scrambling down the stretch."
Not only did the Rangers lose ground in the playoff race, they lost steady defenseman Greg de Vries for four to six weeks with a sprained ligament in his right knee.
"It's a tough time of the year to lose a guy like that," said Glen Sather, the Rangers coach and general manager.
Goalie Mike Dunham, 4-0-2 against the Islanders since joining the Rangers, figures to get the start Saturday.
The Islanders ended a three-game winless streak Thursday with a 3-2 victory over visiting Edmonton.
Justin Papineau scored power-play goals early and late in the third period, both times snapping ties, helping the Islanders to their eighth win in nine home games.
Rick DiPietro, making his first appearance since Dec. 21, stopped 21 shots for his first win since Dec. 6.
With Garth Snow starting eight straight games, DiPietro requested to be sent to the minors last week so he could get some work, but ended up losing both games.
"I couldn't get a win in the minors, so this was huge," DiPietro said.
Ronning, a 17-year NHL veteran, had 17 goals and 31 assists in 80 games with Minnesota last season. He is not expected to play Saturday.
"Cliff is a proven point-producer," Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said. "With two of our top scorers out, we were fortunate Cliff was available as a free agent and showed such a strong desire to be an Islander. His experience and work on the power play will be great assets for us."