Head Coach Jack Capuano had one message for the players making their Islanders-Rangers debut.
"Buckle up," he said. "It's a battle."
The NHL wasted no time pitting a pair of archrivals against each other, as the New York Islanders renew hostilities with the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The first of five meeting's between the cross-town rivals will be a crash course in hockey's most intense rivalry for new Islanders like Cory Conacher.
“You have to be able to take a hit and make a hit and make those simple plays because it's going to be a long 60 minutes if you're not ready to play,” he said “I think this team is made for these types of games.”
Frans Nielsen, a hardened veteran of Islanders-Rangers games, knows that standings and momentum get thrown out the window in the New York battle.
“It doesn’t really matter when it’s that kind of game," Nielsen said. "Even if one team is first in the league and the other is last in the league, it’s always a tight game. It’s always been that way in the New York derby’s.”
The Islanders went 2-3-0 against the Rangers last season, but have won three of their last four trips to the Garden, including a pair of 5-3 wins last season.
The Rangers are coming off a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their home opener on Sunday. While that may delight Islanders fans, Henrik Lundqvist tends to bounce back after being pulled and the Rangers will be even feistier on home ice.
“The Rangers are coming off a pretty tough loss last night to Toronto, so I'm sure they're going to want to get that back and it's going to be against us,” Cory Conacher said. “We need to be ready for them, calm the storm a little bit after the first five minutes and then get after them.”
The Rangers are a good measuring stick for a retooled and explosive Islanders team. Alain Vigneault’s team advanced to the Stanley Cup final last season, before falling in five games to the LA Kings. Nielsen is confident that the new-look Islanders – eight new players are on the roster – will give the Rangers all they can handle.
“They’re a good hockey team and we definitely have to step it up if we want to win in there,” Nielsen said. “We have a good team this year and I think we have the feeling in the room that we’re better than them. We want to show that tomorrow.”
|New York Islanders |
2-0-0 (4 points – T-1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
|New York Rangers |
1-2-0 (2 points - 6th in Metropolitan Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)
|7:00 p.m. |
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
Television: MSG PLUS 2
Play-by-play: Howie Rose, Color: Butch Goring
Radio: WRHU 88.7, LI News 103.9 FM
Play-by-play :Chris King
|Islanders Player to Watch |
Brock Nelson was predicted to have a breakout season, but no one could have expected that he'd lead the NHL in scoring through two games. The sophomore center has six points (3G/3A) and is tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead. Nelson is centering a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome, but is earning most of his points on the top power-play unit.
|Rangers Player to Watch |
Rick Nash leads the Rangers with four goals in his teams' first three games and is tied for the NHL lead. With an assist to go with his four goals, Nash trails Brock Nelson by one point for the league lead. The former Rocket Richard winner (2004) and Rangers top offensive threat is riding a three-game point streak heading into Tuesday's action.
|New York Islanders previous game lines |
89 Cory Conacher – 91 John Tavares – 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski – 29 Brock Nelson – 18 Ryan Strome
12 Josh Bailey – 51 Frans Nielsen – 86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
2 Nick Leddy – 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey – 3 Travis Hamonic
37 Brian Strait – 8 Griffin Reinhart
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
|New York Rangers previous game lines |
20 Chris Kreider – 16 Derick Brassard – 12 Lee Stempniak
63 Anthony Duclair - 26 Martin St. Louis – 61 Rick Nash
62 Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – 10 J.T. Miller
15 Tanner Glass – 28 Dominic Moore – 12 Jesper Fast
27 Ryan McDonagh – 5 Dan Girardi
18 Marc Staal – 8 Kevin Klein
17 John Moore – Matt Hunwick
30 Henrik Lundqvist
33 Cam Talbot