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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Rangers

The Islanders host the rival Rangers at Barclays Center (7 p.m., MSG+2)

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders
New York Islanders (25-20-10) vs New York Rangers (37-18-1)
7 p.m., Barclays Center - Buy Tickets
Radio: AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, 103.9FM - LI News
 - Catch Islanders Spotlight on AM970 at 6 p.m. with guests Pat LaFontaine and Butch Goring -

The importance of Thursday's Islanders-Rangers game goes beyond local bragging rights for the New York Islanders. 

There are important points at stake for the Islanders, who are currently three points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. After losing 7-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, the Islanders are looking to make up that ground. 

It won't be easy, as the Rangers have 37 wins and 75 points - tied for fifth in the NHL - and are a perfect 6-0-0 in February, but the Islanders do have some potential advantages. 

The Islanders are riding a nine-game point streak at Barclays Center (7-0-2) and are undefeated against the Rangers in three games in Brooklyn. The Islanders have also won five of their last six games against the Blueshirts overall. 

"It's hard not to get up for that one," Jason Chimera told reporters after Tuesday's game in Toronto. "I've only been an Islander for six months, but I already hate the Rangers, so it's pretty fun. People say it's a good rivalry and what's so big about it, but you see all the Rangers fans that are next door to you and you want to beat them."

Video: Condensed Game: Rangers @ Islanders

Rangers Rolling:

The Rangers position as a Wild Card squad is a little misleading. With 75 points, the Rangers have the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference - and would be first in the Atlantic Division - but have to settle for a Wild Card berth in the NHL's divisional-playoff format. 

The Rangers are averaging 3.39 goals-per-game, the third-most in the NHL, but the goals have been spread throughout the lineup. Michael Grabner leads the team with 26, but eight players have at least 10 goals. 

There's also a new name at the top of the Rangers scoring lead, as J.T. Miller leads the team with 46 points (18G, 28A). Kevin Hayes is second on the team with 42 (15G, 27A), while Derek Stepan and Mats Zucarello each have 41. 

Matt Puempel will replace Pavel Buchnevich in the Rangers' lineup for Thursday's game. 

"Every time we go out there and play, it's a good atmosphere," Henrik Lundqvist told the Rangers' official website. "Usually pretty intense. They had a tough loss the other night I saw, so I bet they are going to come really hard at home against us."

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