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Game Preview: Islanders at Rangers

The crosstown rivals meet on Thursday night at MSG (7 p.m., MSG+2, MSG GO)

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (2-3-1) AT NEW YORK RANGERS (1-5-1)

7 P.M. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

TV: MSG+2, MSG, MSG GO

RADIO: 88.7FM - WRHU, 660AM/101.9FM WFAN

GAME NOTES MORNING SKATE UPDATES


Jordan Eberle will get his first real taste of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry on Thursday night, when the Islanders travel to MSG to take on their crosstown rivals (7 p.m., MSG+2. MSG GO). 

"There's been a lot of talk about it," Eberle said. "First thing a lot of people have mentioned to me about it is that it goes back a long way and I'm excited to get a taste of it."

He's not familiar with the historical details of the rivalry, like J.P. Parise's OT winner vs the Rangers in 1975 to give the Islanders their first playoff series win, or Ken Morrow's series-clincher in 1984, but expects something similar to the Battle of Alberta. 

"It's probably a lot similar to here," the former Oiler said of the Edmonton-Calgary affairs. "You get two rival teams and two hockey fanbases that first love their team and second hate the other team." 

As far as NHL rivalries go, Edmonton vs Calgary is a pretty fierce one, but the cities are separated by 180 miles whereas the Battle of New York pits neighbor against neighbor. 

Eberle got a glimpse of it during the Islanders preseason game Madison Square Garden, but the intensity from the players and crowd is going to be ratcheted up now that points are on the line. 

Head Coach Doug Weight is happy to play a rival in the first game after a week of traveling out West. He said the spark of a rivalry game - plus two days to re-adjust to the eastern time zone - should be a natural remedy to what can be a groggy game for teams coming back East.

"It's a good thing for us," Weight said. "I don't know what it is, but when you get back, that first game back, you're not there. [The two days] was important for us and hopefully it shows tomorrow night, but I think we'll be fine." 

Video: NYI@NYR: Halak shuts down Grabner's early chance

LINEUP NOTES: 

UPDATE: Ryan Pulock will make season debut against Rangers. Jaroslav Halak will start in goal. Rest of lineup TBD

Jaroslav Halak is going to start in goal for the Islanders on Thursday. Halak boasts a stellar record against the Rangers since joining the Islanders, going 7-3-0 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage with a shutout. 

Weight also said it's likely Ryan Pulock plays his first game of the season on Thursday. Pulock practiced with the Islanders top power-play unit on Wednesday. Read more at Islanders Day-to-Day. 

BY THE NUMBERS:

0-20 - on the power play. The Islanders are looking for their first power-play goal of the season. 

7-1-0 - record in the Islanders last eight games against the Rangers.

8-2-0 - record in the Islanders last 10 games at MSG.

400 - career games for Halak. The Islanders goalie is 213-126-42 all-time with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

THE OPPOSITION: 

After a 102-point season in 2016-17, the Rangers are off to a slow start this season. New York is 1-5-1 to start the year and are winless in four straight games (0-3-1), most recently falling 5-4 OT to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. 

Head Coach Doug Weight said the Islanders can't take the Rangers lightly. 

"We know what we are going to be in for. They are going to be scratching and clawing," Weight said. "I expect them to be playing like it's a huge game for them. It's a huge game for us. I don't expect anything less than we usually get from them."

Ryan McDonagh missed Rangers practice on Wednesday, but should be able to play Thursday, according to Newsday.

J.T. Miller leads the Rangers with seven points. Mika Zibanejad leads New York with five goals this season while Miller and Matz Zuccarello are tied for the team lead with five assists each. 

The Islanders will have to be wary of the Rangers power play, as New York has recorded a power-play goal in four of their seven games this season. The Rangers went 2-for-6 with the man advantage against Pittsburgh. 

RANGERS PROJECTED LINES:

FORWARDS
LEFT WING CENTER  RIGHT WING
RICK NASH MIKA ZIBANEJAD MATS ZUCCARELLO
JIMMY VESEY KEVIN HAYES JESPER FAST
CHRIS KREIDER DAVID DESHARNAIS J.T. MILLER
MICHAEL GRABNER ADAM CRACKNELL PAVEL BUCHNEVICH
DEFENSE
RYAN MCDONAGH ANTHONY DEANGELO
MARC STAAL KEVIN SHATTENKIRK
BRADY SKJEI BRENDAN SMITH
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