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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Rangers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Streaks and rivals collide as the New York Islanders and New York Rangers face off at Nassau Coliseum tonight at 7 p.m.

The Islanders and Rangers are the current torchbearers for New York sports and enter the game riding four-and-three game winning streaks, respectively. 

The Islanders won all four of their games last week, defeating Buffalo, Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus. The Islanders edged the Sabres, Oilers and Leafs by 3-2 margins, before putting an exclamation point on the week with a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets.

“It was a good week,” Tavares said. “Certainly we made things a little tighter at times than we would have liked, but we played some good hockey. For the most part there are some good things to build on. Obviously, it’s a huge one Monday. We know what that atmosphere will be like.”

The Coliseum will be loud and chaotic for the derby-style atmosphere. Pride and bragging rights are always on the line when these rivals face off, but so are key points as the race for the Metropolitan Division title heats up. The division-leading Islanders are four points up on the Rangers, but the blueshirts have two games in hand. A fourth win over the Rangers gives the Islanders some breathing room, while a loss tightens the gap.

The Islanders beat the Rangers 6-3 and 3-0 at Madison Square Garden and 4-1 at the Coliseum earlier this season. Clinching a season series over the Rangers is nice, as is their current four-game streak, but the Islanders aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“For us, each period, each game, the focus, commitment and passion, that’s how we have to go about our business every day,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said.

The Islanders top line was excellent Saturday, combining for 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Tavares (two goals, two assists) and Anders Lee (four assists) each had four-point nights, while Josh Bailey scored two goals and an assist. Lee is the hottest Islander, netting eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last four games. Bailey has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last three games.

“We refocus and get ready for the next game,” Bailey said. “When you get on these streaks you definitely want to ride the wave, but every game is a battle, Monday is no different.”

The Rangers enter the game on a three-game winning streak, having defeated Toronto, Colorado and Arizona during their current road trip. Since losing to the Islanders on Jan. 27, the Rangers are 6-1-1, largely without Henrik Lundqvist, who hasn’t played since Feb. 2 with a bruised blood vessel in his neck.

Backup Cam Talbot has stepped in for Lundqvist, going 4-1-1 in six games. Talbot is 1-1-0 in two career games against the Islanders.

Offensively, Rick Nash is carrying the load for the Rangers on their three-game run, scoring six points (two goals, four assists) over that span. The Brampton, ON native leads the NHL with 35 goals and leads the Rangers with 55 points. Nash is six goals off his career high (41) with 28 games to play.

Nash’s linemate Derick Brassard is also streaking, with four assists in his last three games while Mats Zuccarello has three goals in his last three games.

The rivalry continues tonight at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
37-18-1 (75 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
20-6-0 home
New York Rangers
33-16-5 (71 points - 3rd in Metropolitan Division, 6th in Eastern Conference)
16-9-1 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
New York, NY

Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders 6, Blue Jackets 3 (Feb. 14)
- Post-Game: Bailey, Capuano, Hamonic, Tavares (Feb. 14)

Islanders News:
- Lower Lobby opens 5:00 p.m.
- Doors open 5:45 p.m.
Islanders player to watch
Jaroslav Halak - Goaltender

The Islanders goaltender is riding a five-game winning streak and is 3-0 against the Rangers this season. Halak can tie the Islanders single-season wins record (32) with a victory against the Rangers tonight. Billy Smith, Chris Osgood and Rick DiPietro currently share the Islanders’ win record. Halak is 31-11-0 this season and has the second most wins in the NHL.
Rangers player to watch
Cam Talbot - Goaltender

There’s a lot riding on Rangers backup Cam Talbot, as he assumes the Rangers’ starting duties in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist. So far, Talbot is running with the opportunity, going 4-1-1 in six games. Talbot is coming off a 34-save, 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes and is 8-5-2 with three shutouts on the season. Talbot is 1-1 lifetime vs. the Isles.
New York Islanders previous game lines
27 Anders Lee - 91 John Tavares - 12 Josh Bailey
84 Mikhail Grabovski - 51 Frans Nielsen - 18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin - 29 Brock Nelson - 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin - 53 Casey Cizikas - 13 Colin McDonald

37 Brian Strait - 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy - 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey - 11 Lubomir Visnovsky

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson

New York Rangers previous game lines
61 Rick Nash - 16 Derick Brassard - 36 Mats Zuccarello
20 Chris Kreider - 21 Derek Stepan - 26 Martin St. Louis
62 Carl Hagelin - 13 Kevin Hayes - 10 J.T. Miller
15 Tanner Glass - 28 Dominic Moore - 12 Lee Stempniak

27 Ryan McDonagh - 5 Dan Girardi
18 Marc Staal - 8 Kevin Klein
17 John Moore - 44 Matt Hunwick

33 Cam Talbot
70 MacKenzie Skapski

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