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Rangers go for home-and-home sweep of Isles

by John Kreiser /
ISLANDERS (5-13-5) at RANGERS (15-11-1)


Last 10 -- New York Islanders 1-6-3; New York Rangers 6-4-0

Season series -- The teams have split their first two games, both on Long Island. This is the second of a home-and-home series that saw the Rangers win 6-5 at the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.

Big story -- In theory, the Rangers have the Islanders right where they want them -- coming back to Madison Square Garden for the back end of a home-and-home series after a wild 6-5 victory Thursday on Long Island. But the Garden hasn't been any kind of a home-ice advantage this season -- the Rangers are a superb 10-4-0 on the road but just 5-7-1 at the Garden, where the Islanders won twice in three visits last season.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Isles got five goals on Thursday, the most they've had in a game since Oct. 16, and it still wasn't enough to keep them from losing for the 14th time in 15 games. The problem is that they actually put seven pucks in the net -- but two were deflections by Islanders that went into their own cage. Andrew MacDonald had Brandon Prust's deflection carom off him and into the net, while Zenon Konopka dove to try to break up a pass and would up knocking Marian Gaborik's pass into the net.

The Isles twice overcame two-goal deficits. In the end, it still wasn't enough.

"It's brutal," goaltender Rick DiPietro said. "Every time we seized the momentum, there was a breakdown and they capitalized on it."

Rangers -- Coaches don't usually make a big difference in a particular game, but John Tortorella made a huge difference in Thursday night's win. His newly united trio of Sean Avery, Erik Christensen and Marian Gaborik was the best line on either team, with Gaborik scoring three times, Christensen getting the game's first goal and Avery adding three assists.

"He just creates the play so well and he gets open. When he gets open it's easy to get him the puck," Avery said about Gaborik. "The guy is one of the best goal scorers in the world. It's certainly a fun thing to get to play with him."

Tortorella also made a big move after the Islanders went ahead 3-2 in the second period when he hooked Martin Biron and brought in Henrik Lundqvist -- the Rangers needed less than a minute to get even and were back in front before the period ended.

Who's hot -- Gaborik has 4 goals and an assist in his last two games. … Isles rookie Michael Grabner has scored three times in his last four games.

Injury report -- The Islanders got MacDonald back on Thursday but are still without regulars Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo (shoulder surgery), Milan Jurcina (hamstring), Mike Mottau (eye injury) and Trent Hunter (knee). … Rangers forward Chris Drury is still nowhere near returning from a broken finger, and Vaclav Prospal is out after knee surgery.

Stat pack -- The teams have combined for 21 goals in their two meetings this season. The scored a total of 31 in their six meetings last season. Lundqvist had his streak of 27 consecutive starts against the Islanders snapped when Biron was in goal on Thursday, but his relief appearance means he's appeared in 28 straight. Expect him in goal for the rematch. … The Islanders have won 10 of their last 15 visits to the Garden, including two of three last season.

Puck drop -- Saying that the Isles are frustrated would be putting it mildly. They had high hopes for back-to-back wins after a five-day layoff following Friday's 2-0 victory against New Jersey, but sloppy defense and some bad bounces cost them a very winnable two points.

"There are no excuses," said center John Tavares, who had a pair of assists on Thursday. "There are too many lapses right now and it's costing us."

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