The Islanders are coming off consecutive shootout wins over Minnesota and Winnipeg, two intense atmospheres with sold-out buildings. They aim to continue their win streak against a Rangers team that is looking to tie Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Don’t let the gap in the standings fool you, the first two installments of the Battle of New York were tight, competitive, physical games.
“[They’re a] hard-working team. They can score some goals, their top six are definitely guys who can put the puck in the net,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We’ve talked about being patient and we might have to win games 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. It’s not going to be a 7-6 game with our team on a lot of nights.”
Capuano said there is a good chance that Evgeni Nabokov
will start against the Rangers, after relieving the injured Al Montoya
and backstopping the Isles to a win in Winnipeg. It was Nabokov’s first game action since Nov. 17, but looked sharp despite coming in cold off the bench late in the second period.
“It’s one of those times I guess, it’s good that you don’t have time to react, you don’t have the time to think,” Nabokov said. “You just go in and try to help the team to win. I always try to simplify my game. I do it as simple as possible until I get in a groove and feel good.”
Nabokov played both games against the Rangers at the Coliseum, but tonight will be his first taste of the Isles-Rangers rivalry at the Garden. With 10 years of NHL experience under his belt, the veteran said he won’t be fazed by the raucous crowd.
“To me it’s just a great atmosphere,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who they are cheering for, how they’re cheering. It’s the loudness, the excitement, so that’s what I love.”