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Rangers focus on following game plan vs. Islanders

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

RANGERS (33-16-5) at ISLANDERS (37-18-1)

TV: NHLN-US, TVA, SNO, SNP, MSG, MSG+

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers head into their game Monday at Nassau Coliseum focused on trying to forget about the three regulation losses they've had against the New York Islanders this season without forgetting about what happened to lead to those results.

The Islanders are 3-0-0 against the Rangers this season with a 13-4 goal differential. They have won all three games by three goals, including 4-1 at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 27.

"We've turned pucks over, we haven't had great starts, we've given up goals in bunches," Rangers forward Rick Nash said. "We've lost three times now, so it's definitely a bit of a test for us. If we stick to our game plan, stick to our style that works, we'll have a better chance."

The Rangers are at their best when they're breaking out of their own zone with speed and tape-to-tape passes, when they get through the zones and into the attacking zone quickly, putting teams on their heels. It's been a reversal against the Islanders, who are also a quick transition team fueled by quick passes leading to strong breakouts.

"That's our bread and butter too," Islanders forward Josh Bailey said. "Obviously they're a fast team with great players and we have to bring it ourselves to slow them down a little."

The Islanders have done that. They haven't allowed the Rangers to play their game this season because they have been good at executing what they want to do. It's as simple as that.

"They've been the better team against us," Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Their puck possession has been better than ours. You go out there for 45 seconds, but when you're chasing for 35 seconds of it, your last 10 seconds you don't have the energy to go the other way. That's how I've felt the games have gone, they've kept us in our end and had us chasing them around a little bit, where usually for us it's the other way around."

If it was the other way around maybe the Rangers wouldn't enter the game Monday trailing the first-place Islanders by four points in the Metropolitan Division. The standings, as much as the New York rivalry, are front and center in this season series now.

The Islanders have won four in a row and five of their past six games to climb back into first place in the division.

A win Monday means the Rangers will finish with a 4-0-0 record on their four-game road trip that started with victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers still have two games in hand on the Islanders.

The Rangers and Islanders will play for the final time in the regular season on March 10 at Nassau Coliseum.

"It's a big game, a four-point game," Bailey said. "With the way the standings are now it's such a logjam and these games are huge. The fact that it's the Rangers and the way the standings are, it makes it that much more important."

Here are the projected lineups:

RANGERS

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

John Moore - Dan Boyle

Cam Talbot

Mackenzie Skapski

Scratched: Matt Hunwick

Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (neck), Jesper Fast (knee)

ISLANDERS

Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey

Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Ryan Strome

Nikolay Kulemin - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Brian Strait - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Matt Donovan

Injured: Michael Grabner (upper body), Kyle Okposo (upper body), Eric Boulton (lower body), Calvin de Haan (facial cut)

Status report: Boyle (flu) will be a game-time decision, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. Boyle did not play Saturday in the Rangers' 5-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes because of the flu. He skated Monday morning and said he felt much better, but he said he hasn't had a full meal in several days and wanted to see how his stomach responded to the pregame meal before declaring himself fit to play. … The Rangers announced Fast is undergoing physical therapy on his sprained knee, but he hasn't started skating yet.

Who's hot: The Islanders top line of Lee, Tavares and Bailey combined for 11 points Saturday in a 6-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Lee had a career-high four points, all on assists. He has nine points on a five-game point streak and 10 points in seven games since moving to the top line. Tavares had four points on two goals and two assists against the Blue Jackets. Bailey had three points on two goals and one assist. … Hayes has goals in three straight games and points in five in a row. Brassard has four assists on a three-game point streak and eight points, including seven assists, in the past seven games. Nash has goals in back-to-back games and seven goals in his past eight games.

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