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Game Preview: Islanders at Rangers

The Islanders and Rangers meet on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

New York Islanders (33-26-12) at New York Rangers (45-24-4)

8 p.m., Madison Square Garden

TV: NBCSN

Radio: 660AM, 101.9FM - WFAN, 88.7FM - WRHU

Morning Skate Updates

As big as the Islanders-Rangers rivalry is - and as fitting as it is that they're playing on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry - the Islanders are focusing more on themselves when they visit Madison Square Garden. 

The Islanders start the day three points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card seed in the Eastern Conference. A win doesn't get them back in, but a loss would open the door for Toronto to start pulling away - the Leafs play Columbus at 7 p.m. - making Wednesday bigger than the usual Islanders-Rangers hoopla. 

"Every game is being approached as the biggest game for us," Travis Hamonic said on Monday. "We know what's at stake and there are a handful of teams really battling for that last spot. You can't overlook your own opportunities when you're in a race this tight. You can't rely on any other team doing you favors." 

The Islanders aren't counting on any help in their playoff push, but they got a little on Tuesday night when the Arizona Coyotes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in regulation. Tampa's loss keeps the Lightning one point behind the Islanders, who now have a game in hand over the team chasing them. 

Now the Islanders just have to take advantage of the help. 

Video: Ladd, Tavares power Isles past Rangers, 4-2

Isles vs. Rangers:

That being said, the Islanders-Rangers game is still a big deal to the principle parties. Doug Weight said he's been looking forward to this game for about four weeks and said this is the type of game that jolt the Islanders during their two-game winless streak (0-1-1). 

For Weight, who has played and coached in this rivalry, the intensity of Isles-Rangers is familiar. For Josh Ho-Sang, it'll be a new experience, right down to playing on Broadway, but one he's excited for.

"I've watched the games. The last few times the Isles have played them, the Isles have come out guns a blazing and it's a really good rivalry," Ho-Sang said. 

The Islanders are 6-1-0 in their last seven games against the Rangers. Their only loss in that span came at Madison Square Garden on Opening Night of the season. The Isles won the last two meetings, both at Barclays Center. 

Islanders Likely To Go With New Lines:

Doug Weight switched up his lines at Monday's practice, kept them together on Tuesday and is expected to start them on Wednesday. Josh Bailey missed Tuesday's practice with an illness, but Weight said he expected him to be back in the lineup on Wednesday. 

PROJECTED LINES:

FORWARDS
LEFT WING CENTER  RIGHT WING
ANDREW LADD JOHN TAVARES  JOSH BAILEY
ANDERS LEE ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER JOSH HO-SANG
BROCK NELSON RYAN STROME JASON CHIMERA
NIKOLAY KULEMIN CASEY CIZIKAS CAL CLUTTERBUCK
Rangers Notes:

The Rangers are playing the second half of a back-to-back set after losing 3-2 in overtime in New Jersey on Tuesday night. 

The Rangers are 1-1-2 in their last four games, though with 94 points - fourth most in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference - they are very likely to finish as the first wild card and play the winner of the Atlantic Division. 

Henrik Lundqvist will not play against the Islanders on Wednesday, as the Rangers goalie continues his recovery from a hip injury sustained on March 7. Lundqvist could be back on the weekend when the Rangers start a three-game road trip in LA. 

Antti Raanta has started six straight games in Lundqvist's absence including Tuesday's game in Newark, so it's unclear if he'll get back-to-back starts. 

J.T. Miller continues to lead the Rangers in points (52), Mats Zuccarello leads the team with 37 assists and former-Islander Michael Grabner leads the Rangers with 27 goals.

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