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Islanders host Rangers in showdown game

by Dave Lozo /

RANGERS (20-16-4) at ISLANDERS (21-16-4)


Last 10: N.Y. Rangers 5-3-2; N.Y. Islanders 8-1-1

Season series: This is the fourth and final meeting. The New York Rangers are 2-0-1 against the New York Islanders this season, though only one of the three games was decided in regulation.

Big story: There might be enough room in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for only one of these teams. The Islanders are in seventh with 46 points; the Rangers are in eighth with 44 points but have played one fewer game. With the Winnipeg Jets lurking in ninth place with 44 points, both the Islanders and Rangers can deal a blow to each other's postseason chances with a regulation win at Nassau Coliseum.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Inconsistency has been an issue all season for the Rangers. They lost three of four to start the season, then won three of four and have been going through peaks and valleys ever since. They are 4-1-1 in their past six, including s 3-2 shootout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, but this run of good play was preceded by a 3-6-1 stretch.

The Rangers feel good now, and they'll need to be at their best against the red-hot Islanders.

"They're playing some great hockey right now," Rangers forward Arron Asham told ESPN New York on Friday. "Their young stars are starting to bloom and play important minutes for them ... and they're getting good goaltending. They've got a decent lineup. We can't go in there thinking it's the Islanders of the past. It's a good hockey club."

Islanders: They're 8-1-1 in their past 10 to push themselves into a great position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Evgeni Nabokov has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of nine starts and John Tavares has six goals in his past 10 games.

"I think we've found a way to be patient," said Nabokov after the Islanders weathered an early storm to win 2-1 against the Boston Bruins on the road Thursday night. "Sometimes it's just better to chip the puck out and just go on the forecheck. Early in the season we weren't doing all those things. We had more turnovers."

Who's hot: Islanders forward Josh Bailey has four goals and three assists in his past six games. He scored both goals in the win at Boston.

Injury report: Defenseman Marc Staal (eye) is still out for the Rangers. ... The Islanders are missing defenseman Brian Strait (ankle) and Joe Finley (undisclosed), both of whom are on injured reserve

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