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Isles look to take valuable two points from Rangers

by Dave Lozo
ISLANDERS (27-32-11) at RANGERS (36-30-4)


Last 10 --
N.Y. Islanders 4-2-4; N.Y. Rangers 5-5-0

Season series --
This is the fifth of six meetings between the New York rivals. The Islanders grabbed the first matchup, but the Rangers have won the last three by a combined 15-7 score.

Big story --
The Islanders aren't mathematically eliminated, as they trail the Rangers by 11 points for the final spot in the East. But the Isles will be looking to play the role of spoiler with the Rangers hanging on to eighth place in the East by four points over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Team scope:

Islanders -- Don't let their spot in the standings fool you -- the Islanders are playing some of the League's best hockey right now.

Despite their 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils on Saturday, the Isles are in the midst of a 4-0-3 stretch and have been one of the NHL's best teams in the second half. Goaltender Al Montoya has been a big part of it; he's 7-2-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .926 save percentage since coming from the Phoenix Coyotes in a trade this season.

"I'm just trying to do what I can do," Montoya said. "I'm feeding off the team right now. I just wanted to give the team a chance and make that save and be sharp."

Rangers -- They are coming off a split of a two-game West Coast trip through Anaheim and San Jose. After a tough loss to the Ducks, the Rangers earned a 3-2 shootout win against the red-hot Sharks.

"I think we salvaged the trip," coach John Tortorella said. "It's a good answer. We still have things to work on. We played against a very good hockey club and found a way to win."

This game will mark the 15th consecutive start for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who won't get much rest with backup Martin Biron out for the season and the inexperienced Chad Johnson now the No. 2 goaltender.

Who's hot -- Outside of Montoya's hot play, the Islanders have received 5 goals and an assist from Blake Comeau is in his last six games. … Rangers forward Vinny Prospal has points in eight of his last nine games (2 goals, 8 assists).

Injury report -- The injury-riddled Islanders actually received some good news this week as center Doug Weight and goaltender Rick DiPietro practiced, but are still not ready to return to game action. … Rangers forwards Derek Boogaard (shoulder/concussion), Alex Frolov (knee) and Chris Drury (knee) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack --
The Islanders are tied for second in the NHL with 11 shootout/overtime losses. If they had won six of those games, they'd be five points out of a playoff spot entering this game. … Defenseman Bryan McCabe has 2 assists in seven games since coming to the Rangers in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

Puck drop -- "We haven't had a lot of games where we're that flat, but tonight we came out really hard and strong. This game was so important for us. We needed the points." -- Lundqvist after Saturday's win in San Jose

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