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Improved Islanders visit Rangers

by John Kreiser /
ISLANDERS (9-18-6) at RANGERS (20-14-2)

TV --

Last 10 -- N.Y. Islanders 4-5-1; N.Y. Rangers 6-3-1

Season series -- It's the fourth of six games between the New York-area rivals. The Islanders won 6-4 at home Oct. 11 before the Rangers swept a home-and-home series Dec. 2-3, including a 2-0 win at home in the most recent meeting

Big story -- After losing 20 of 21 games in one stretch, the Islanders have put the wheels back on and are on a bit of a roll -- they improved to 4-0-1 in their last five with a 4-1 victory against Montreal at home Sunday. The Rangers have been off since Thursday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay in an 11-round shootout.

Team Scope:

Islanders --
There are a lot more smiles on Long Island these days. The Islanders no longer are last in the overall standings, and the win against Montreal was their third in a row -- all with Dwayne Roloson in goal. Roloson was named the NHL's First Star of the Week after allowing just three goals in three games.

"(Roloson) played outstanding," said defenseman James Wisniewski, who scored his first goal in nearly two months in the game against the Canadiens. "The last three games he has played great, making key saves in key situations and keeping the lead for us. We've really taken advantage of it and scored some power play goals for him the last three games."

Rangers -- It's been 366 days since goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed a goal to the Isles at Madison Square Garden. He's had back-to-back shutouts since then, including the 2-0 victory on Dec. 3.

"When you have a shutout it means you did a lot of good things. ... It was the easiest shutout this year," said Lundqvist, who has five shutouts this season and 29 in his five-plus NHL seasons.

Who's hot -- Isles center John Tavares has 6 points during a five-game point-scoring streak. Roloson has a 0.98 goals-against average in his three-game winning streak. … Rangers rookie Derek Stepan has goals in three consecutive games, including a spectacular game-tying goal on Thursday.

Injury report -- The Isles reactivated goaltender Rick DiPietro (swollen knee) off injured reserve on Sunday. … The Rangers expect to have star forward Marian Gaborik in the lineup after he missed Thursday’s game with a groin problem. Forward Vaclav Prospal (knee surgery) has yet to play this season. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto missed Thursday’s game with a virus that's expected to keep him out again.

Stat pack -- Roloson was 0-11-1 before his three-game winning streak. … Getting Gaborik back figures to be a big boost for the Rangers -- he has 7 goals and 12 points in eight games against the Islanders since signing with New York in the summer of 2009.

Puck drop -- Though Sunday's results were good, interim Islanders coach Jack Capuano said his team will have to play a lot better against the Rangers to extend its winning streak.

"We have to play better defensively, for sure," Capuano said about facing the Rangers. "Obviously they have some highly skilled guys on that side and I thought we played them pretty good when we were there last time, but we just need certain areas of out game to improve. I think we gave ourselves a chance to win. They are a good hockey team."
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