NEW YORK ISLANDERS (35-20-7) VS. NEW YORK RANGERS (38-21-6)
5 P.M. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, MSG+2, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. END OF THE ROAD:
After gritting and grinding their way across the country and back through Western Canada, the New York Islanders end their seven-game road trip at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
The Islanders are 5-1-0 in the first six games of their road trip, winning a series of tight one-goal games, including a 1-0 shutout in New Jersey and a pair of OT wins in Calgary and Winnipeg.
Despite taking 10 of 12 points, the Islanders felt they hadn’t played up their potential. While one of the markers of a good team is one that can win even when they don’t have their best stuff, a tilt against the Rangers might be what the Islanders need to get their game back to where they want it to be.
2. ISLES-RANGERS III:
After winning their first two meetings at Barclays Center, the Islanders and Rangers meet for the third time this season and first time at Madison Square Garden.
These games are always electric, especially with dueling crowds and over 40 years of scores to settle, but the stakes are even higher this season given how close the teams are in the standings.
The Islanders trail the Rangers by five points, but hold three games in hand. The Islanders have a chance to close the points gap, while maintaining their advantage in games played. As the two and three seeds in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders and Rangers are on a collision course to meet in the first round of the playoffs and their next two meetings could go a long way in deciding who gets home ice, should they meet.
3. DE HAAN DAY-TO-DAY:
Calvin de Haan did not skate with the Islanders during Saturday’s practice, as Jack Capuano said he was day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Capuano said de Haan will be out for Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers.
“He’ll be out, he’s day-to-day right now,” Capuano said. “A guy that doesn’t practice the day before for me, I don’t want to throw him right in the fire.”
The Islanders carried eight defensemen at the end of their road trip, so they have a pair of able bodies – Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky – who can jump back into the lineup. Check back at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday for the Islanders’ lineup against the Rangers.
Mikhail Grabovski also skated with the Islanders Saturday, though Capuano said he was still some time away.
“The fact that he’s out there is a good thing, but you go through [practice] and have to battle a little bit," Capuano said. "We’ll just see how he feels and progresses.”
4. LUNDQVIST DAY-TO-DAY:
UPDATE: Henrik Lundqvist is out for tonight's game. Antti Raanta starts for the Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist’s status is uncertain, as the Rangers’ goaltender is currently listed as day-to-day. Lundqvist was injured in a collision with Ryan McDonagh on Thursday night in Pittsburgh – he took a page out of David Leggio’s playobook and flipped the net over to stop play – and missed Friday’s game against Washington.
Head Coach Alain Vigneault said the team doesn’t believe Lundqvist’s injury to be serious, but his status is worth watching ahead of Sunday’s contest. If Lundqvist can’t go, backup Antti Raanta is expected to get the call.
5. RANGERS ADD ERIC STAAL:
In search of extra offense for their playoff push, the New York Rangers acquired Carolina Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal in exchange for prospect Aleksi Saarela and second-round picks in 2016 and 2017.
Staal has yet to record a point in his first three games with the Rangers, but had 33 points (10G, 23A) in 63 games for the Hurricanes. Staal is 10 seasons removed from being a 100-point player, but has scored 20 or more goals every year, save for the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13 and his rookie season in 2003-04.
Staal is currently centering the Rangers’ third line with Viktor Stalberg and Oscar Lindberg, but adds excellent depth down the middle for the blueshirts.