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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Rangers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
In 125 meetings, the Islanders and Rangers have had a number of historic battles at Nassau Coliseum.

Win or lose, tonight’s final regular-season meeting – the 126th – already has a firm place in the history books. If the Islanders and Rangers don’t meet in the playoff series, it’ll be the last time these clubs meet at the barn on Hempstead Turnpike.

“It’s going to be an emotional game and a big game,” John Tavares said.

Beyond the historical ramifications of the final meeting in Uniondale, the Islanders and Rangers are jockeying for the Metropolitan Division lead. The Islanders are currently three points up on the Rangers, but the Blueshirts have four games in hand.

A win tonight is critical if the Islanders want to win the Division. Catching the red-hot Rangers – 7-1-2 in their last 10 – won’t be easy without a triumph in tonight’s head-to-head matchup.

“It’s a big game,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They are well rested and we just have to find a way to make sure we have energy. It’s good to play at home in front of our crowd. It’s a long road trip for us. It’s the first game back. Just get our rest and get prepared to play a really good team right now.”

The Islanders return to the Coliseum fresh off a 4-3 comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and a successful four-game road trip, in which they earned six of a possible eight points (2-0-2). Tavares also became the league’s leading scorer on the trip and sits atop the NHL with 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists).

The Islanders are 3-1-0 against the Rangers this season, having won two meetings at Madison Square Garden before splitting the next two games at the Coliseum.

Jaroslav Halak is expected to be in goal tonight after Michal Neuvirth started the Islanders past two games. Halak should be well rested, having not played since a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Halak has played in all four Islanders-Rangers games this season, going 3-1 with one shutout.

The Rangers are coming off a 1-0 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. Cam Talbot made 29 saves for the shutout – his fifth of the season – and is filling in well for the injured Henrik Lundqvist. Talbot is 10-2-3 in 15 games since Lundqvist’s was sidelined with a neck injury, including a 6-5 win over the Islanders on Feb. 16.

The Rangers made a big splash at the NHL trade deadline, adding veteran defenseman Keith Yandle. Yandle is the third highest-scoring defenseman over the past five seasons, scoring 226 points (44 goals, 182 assists) over that span. Yandle – who is making his Isles-Rangers debut – does not have a point in three games as a Ranger.

The Islanders also have a recent acquisition making his rivalry debut. Tyler Kennedy scored a goal and an assist in his first game as an Islander Monday and is excited about the chance to play Tuesday.

“It’s going to be my first taste, but it’s going to be pretty crazy,” Kennedy said. “I’ve heard that building is always rocking when the Rangers come in there. I’m excited for it.”

For Kennedy, it’s a first. For the rest of us, we hope it’s not the last.

New York Islanders
43-21-4 (90 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-1st in Eastern Conference)
23-9-0 home
New York Rangers
40-17-7 (87 points - 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
19-10-2 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 4, Maple Leafs 3 OT (Mar. 9)
- Islanders Prospect Report (Mar. 9)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Smile Train Night
- Lower Lobby opens 5:00 p.m.
- Doors open 5:45 p.m.
Islanders player to watch
Tyler Kennedy - Forward

Tyler Kennedy certainly made an impact in his Islanders’ debut, scoring a goal and assisting on John Tavares’ game winner. The Islanders acquired Kennedy from the San Jose Sharks at the Mar. 2 trade deadline, but an upper-body injury delayed his first game with the team. Kennedy has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 26 games.
Rangers player to watch
Keith Yandle - Defenseman

Keith Yandle was the Rangers’ prized acquisition at the Mar. 2 trade deadline, as they traded highly-tauted prospect Anthony Duclair, John Moore and a 2016 first-round pick for one of the league’s top offensive defenseman. Yandle doesn’t have a point for the Rangers yet, but is the third highest-scoring d-man over the past five seasons with 226 points.
New York Islanders previous game lines
27 Anders Lee - 91 John Tavares - 12 Josh Bailey
86 Nikolay Kulemin - 51 Frans Nielsen - 18 Ryan Strome
40 Michael Grabner - 29 Brock Nelson - 26 Tyler Kennedy
17 Matt Martin - 53 Casey Cizikas - 15 Cal Clutterbuck

44 Calvin de Haan - 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy - 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey - 11 Lubomir Visnovsky

30 Michal Neuvirth
41 Jaroslav Halak

New York Rangers previous game lines
61 Rick Nash - 16 Derick Brassard - 36 Mats Zuccarello
20 Chris Kreider - 21 Derek Stepan - 25 Martin St. Louis
62 Carl Hagelin - 13 Kevin Hayes - 10 J.T. Miller
15 Tanner Glass - 28 Dominic Moore - 19 Jesper Fast

27 Ryan McDonagh - 5 Dan Girardi
18 Marc Staal - 22 Dan Boyle
93 Keith Yandle - 8 Kevin Klein

33 Cam Talbot
70 MacKenzie Skapski

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