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Banged-up Rangers look to extend streak vs. Islanders

by Dan Rosen

RANGERS (11-8-2) at ISLANDERS (10-11-2)


Last 10: Rangers 5-3-2; Islanders 5-4-1

Season series: This is the third of four meetings between the New York rivals, the first at Nassau Coliseum. They have split, the Rangers winning 4-1 on Feb. 7 and the Islanders taking a 4-3 decision in a shootout one week later. They play again April 13.

Big story: The Rangers likely will be without defenseman Marc Staal, who was injured when a deflected slap shot hit him near the right eye during the third period Tuesday night. Staal's status has not been updated by the Rangers, but his brother, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, told that Marc is waiting for the swelling to go down before further determination on the severity of the injury can be made. Rangers center Brad Richards also remains questionable after missing the game Tuesday because of soreness.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Despite the injury news to Staal and Richards, things are looking up for the Rangers, who have won three in a row since Rick Nash returned to the lineup after a four-game absence because of an undisclosed injury.

Nash has four goals and two assists during the streak. He scored twice in the third period Tuesday to lift the Rangers to a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"He's ignited us," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

The Rangers claimed defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers Wednesday and it's possible he will be in the lineup Thursday if Staal is unable to play. Tortorella could use Matt Gilroy, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday.

Islanders: They've won two straight and have points in their past three since starting their current season-long seven-game homestand with back-to-back regulation losses to Carolina and the Boston Bruins. The Islanders lost in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs, defeated the Ottawa Senators in a shootout, and scored three times in the third period to earn a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

The Islanders blew a 3-1 lead to the Canadiens, but got goals from Radek Martinek, John Tavares and Colin McDonald over the final 12:04 of the third period.

"It resembled a playoff game," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "We responded well. Everyone played gritty and tough, and that's exactly the way we need to play to be successful."

The Islanders will again be without defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who left the team earlier this week because of personal matters. Newsday reported he returned to Slovakia because the 13-year-old son of one of his closest friends died in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

Who's hot: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan scored twice against the Flyers and has three goals in the past four games. Nash has points in seven straight games dating to Feb. 10. … Islanders forward John Tavares broke his cold spell by scoring a goal and adding an assist in the win over the Canadiens. He went the three previous games without a point.

Injury report: Staal likely is out for the Rangers, who also haven't updated the status of Richards. Arron Asham (back) has missed the past six games. … The Islanders have defensemen Matt Carkner and Brian Strait on injured reserve. Forward Jesse Joensuu (lower body) also is out.

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