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Desperate Rangers can't afford loss to Isles

by John Kreiser

RANGERS (41-31-5) at ISLANDERS (29-36-12)


Last 10:
N.Y. Rangers 7-2-1; N.Y. Islanders 4-4-2

Season series: It's the last of six games between the local rivals. The Islanders won the first; the Rangers have won the last four, including a 6-3 victory in their last meeting on March 15.

Big story: For the Islanders, beating their biggest rival is a matter of pride -- they've been officially eliminated from the playoff race. But the stakes are enormous for the Rangers, who are eighth after Wednesday's 1-0 loss in Buffalo and lead Carolina by three points in the race for the last playoff spot in the East.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Things looked like they might be going the Rangers' way when Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller was a late scratch for Wednesday's game. But Swedish rookie Jhonas Enroth stepped in and stopped all 23 shots he faced for his first NHL shutout. New York generated little offense for most of the night.

"You can't play Game 77 like it is Game 25 for 40 minutes," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "They were the more desperate team and (the way we played) in the first two periods was unacceptable. This was an opportunity lost."

Islanders: After a solid three-month stretch of hockey, the injury-riddled Islanders are ending the season on a down note. Wednesday's 3-2 loss at New Jersey was their third consecutive loss, and they've dropped to 14th in the Eastern Conference.

The Isles trailed 2-0 after two periods in New Jersey, tied the game on a pair of goals by Frans Nielsen, but went home empty-handed when defenseman Andy Greene scored 80 seconds after Nielsen had tied the game.

"This team can't go through anything more than what they've been through this year," goaltender Rick DiPietro said. "It's disappointing but we've got to bounce back."

Who's hot:
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has allowed just two goals in the last four games. He is 8-1-1 with a 1.67 goals against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts in his last 10 games. … Nielsen's 13 goals are a career high.

Injury report:
Rangers backup goaltender Martin Biron (broken collarbone) might well have started this game if he were healthy. The Rangers are also without forwards Derek Boogaard (concussion) and Chris Drury and Alexander Frolov (knee). … The Isles, the runaway leaders in man-games lost due to injuries, this week officially added captain Doug Weight (back) to their list of players who are out for the season -- it's up to seven. Defenseman Milan Jurcina (hip) missed Wednesday's game, as did blueliner Bruno Gervais (lower body). Forward Michael Grabner missed Wednesday's game to be at the birth of his first child.

Stat pack: The Islanders lead the NHL with 14 shorthanded goals, a League-leading seven of them by Nielsen -- who has scored just six times when he's not killing a penalty. ... Rangers forward Marian Gaborik has 6 goals in five games against the Isles this season.

Puck drop: Back-to-back games aren't usually much fun, especially when both game are on the road. But after losing in Buffalo, the Rangers are eager to get right back at it -- especially in a building where they will have much, if not most, of the fan support.

"We are not excited about the way we played tonight, so I think it's good that we play tomorrow night," said defenseman Marc Staal, who was in the penalty box when Buffalo's Tim Connolly scored the game's only goal. "We can just move by this one and get a win tomorrow."

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