Thomas Greiss is getting his first taste of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry on Thursday night.
Greiss (22-11-4) will start in goal for the Islanders against their crosstown rivals, in a game that could go a long way in determining both teams playoff seeding.
-The Islanders (97 points) can vault themselves into third place in the Metropolitan Division with a regulation win on Thursday, as they would tie the Rangers in points (99) with a game in hand.
-A win combined with a Penguins’ loss keeps alive the Islanders hopes of having home ice in the first round
-A single point on Thursday – or the Islanders final two games after – would assure them of finishing no lower than the first wild-card position, while still giving them a chance to catch the Rangers.
-An Islanders regulation loss prevents the Islanders from catching the Rangers.
A win on Thursday would also give the Islanders their first-ever season sweep of the Rangers.
Jack Capuano didn’t offer a concrete lineup for Thursday’s game, saying he wants to evaluate the health of his players before gametime.
Capuano said there was a “good chance” Calvin de Haan could return to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game in Washington, but said he still needed to consult with Cal Clutterbuck, who also missed Tuesday’s game.
“We have a few guys feeling it at this time of year, so we just want to make sure,” Capuano said.
Even with a playoff berth assured, Capuano said he still expects his team to play hard, but also said getting healthy was a top priority, which could mean resting some players during the last three games of the season.
“We have a lot of guys that are competitive and want to play the game, but at the same time we have to do what’s best for the team,” Capuano said. “We’ve worked really hard to get to this point and that’s something we’ll sit down with management and our coaches and have to look real closely at.”
The coach did praise his team for their resiliency, despite a rash of injuries to key players down the stretch. In March alone, the Islanders lost starting goalie Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Travis Hamonic for the regular season as well as losing Mikhail Grabovski indefinitely. Mix in intermittent injuries to Calvin de Haan, Cal Clutterbuck, JF Berube and Marek Zidlicky and the Islanders have had their fair share of adversity.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Capuano said. “We went through a tough stretch there with the injuries that we have and they found a way to get in the playoffs.”
Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal for the Rangers.
Dan Girardi is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not play.
Ryan McDonagh is out for the remainder of the regular season with a hand injury.
Kevin Hayes draws into the Rangers lineup taking out Oscar Lindberg.