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New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders

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GAME: New York Rangers (9-9-5-2) at New York Islanders (9-12-2-0).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

A visit from the archrival New York Rangers couldn't come at a better time for the struggling New York Islanders.

The Islanders will try to end an ugly six-game losing streak when they face the Rangers in the first of six meetings this season.

A little more than a month ago the Islanders were 7-3-2 and challenging for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Losing nine of their last 11 games has left them barely ahead of Pittsburgh for the league's worst record.

During the six-game skid, the Islanders have been shut out twice while getting outscored 22-5. The NHL's worst power play is 1-for-23 during that span and the penalty killers -- the league's best before the streak -- have allowed 10 goals in 36 opportunities.

Less than six minutes into Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Washington, the Islanders already trailed 2-0 after giving up a pair of power-play goals. Arron Asham scored early in the third period to prevent the Islanders from getting shut out again.

"There's nothing I can say, there's nothing anybody can say any more," said captain Michael Peca, who has gone 11 games without a goal. "A lot of us wish we had psychology degrees to be able to figure this out."

Peca isn't the only slumping Islanders player. Star center Alexei Yashin has no points in seven games and no goals in 12, while forward Jason Blake has not scored in eight games.

Maybe the only thing that can inject some life into the Islanders is the sight of the Rangers and what is always a charged atmosphere at Nassau Coliseum when the archrivals meet. The Rangers, however, have gotten the better of the play at Nassau Coliseum of late, losing just twice in the last 13 games there (9-2-2).

The Rangers were swept in a home-and-home series by Toronto, including a 5-4 road loss Tuesday, following a season-best four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).

"There are players that let the team down in front of our own net," center Bobby Holik said. "We just let them skate right in and do what they needed to do. You're not going to win games like that."

Backup goalie Jussi Markkanen earned the start Tuesday after yielding three goals during three consecutive wins, but lasted only one period after allowing three goals on 15 shots. Mike Dunham stopped 15 of 17 shots over the final 40 minutes and will likely start this game.

Both teams will be without their leading scorers. Rangers captain Mark Messier sustained a charley horse Tuesday and isn't expected to play while Islanders forward Mariusz Czerkawski was scratched Tuesday due to an irregular heartbeat.

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