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Rangers-Islanders Preview

GAME: New York Rangers (21-12-3-1) at New York Islanders (17-16-2).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Struggling for one of the few times this season, the New York Rangers hope to have league scoring leader Jaromir Jagr available when they face the archrival New York Islanders for the fourth time this season.

Jagr has been one of the biggest reasons for the Rangers' surprising success which had them atop the Atlantic Division most of this season before recently falling into second place.

Jagr, the NHL leader with 55 points, suffered a neck sprain during an open-ice collision with Ottawa's Chris Neil in the second period of Monday's 6-2 loss to the Senators.

Jagr is listed as day-to-day.

"This is our team, injuries are part of the game and we'll press on regardless of who's in and who's out, but we believe and hope Jagr is fine," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "It was a big collision, but he's a big man, a strong guy, and I think he came out of it all right."

Being without Jagr for any length of time could be difficult for the Rangers, who have lost four of five while scoring only six total goals in those defeats.

Jagr (23) and rookie Petr Prucha (17) are the only Rangers in double figures in goals. By comparison, the Islanders have five players with 10 or more goals.

Renney decided to start Kevin Weekes over impressive rookie Henrik Lundqvist against the league-leading Senators. Weekes allowed four goals on 15 shots before he was replaced by Lundqvist 5:02 into the game.

Lundqvist, who will almost certainly start Wednesday, has played well in two games against the Islanders, winning once and losing in a shootout while posting a 1.44 goals-against average.

While the Rangers have had offensive problems lately, the opposite has been true for the Islanders, who have allowed 25 goals in their last five games. Pittsburgh, Washington and Atlanta are the only Eastern Conference teams that have surrendered more goals this season than the Islanders (127).

The Islanders jumped out to a 3-1 lead at Buffalo on Monday only to allow five unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss to the red-hot Sabres.

Garth Snow made a rare start in place of struggling Rick DiPietro and wasn't helped by his teammates as the Islanders were outshot 25-10 over the final two periods.

"It's frustrating when you have a lead and you played so well in the first period," Islanders captain Alexei Yashin said. "We just couldn't keep it up in the last two periods."

Islanders forward Jason Blake has goals in three straight games since missing two due to a moderate concussion.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 27): Rangers - 46 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Atlantic Division. Islanders - 36 points, 3rd place, 13 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 23 goals, 32 assists and 55 points; Darius Kasparaitis and Michal Rozsival, 46 PIM. Islanders - Blake and Miroslav Satan, 16 goals; Yashin, 21 assists and 35 points; Arron Asham, 72 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 27): Rangers - Power play: 16.1 percent (35 for 217), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.8 percent (210 for 242), 2nd. Islanders - Power play: 18.7 percent (42 for 225), tied for 10th. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (192 for 238), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Lundqvist (13-5-3, 1 SO, 2.13 GAA); Weekes (8-7-1, 2.98). Islanders - DiPietro (13-11-2, 3.33); Snow (4-5-0, 3.75).

SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 27; Rangers, 3-1. At New York, Lundqvist stopped 31 shots and helped the Rangers kill all 11 opposing power plays.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 10-7-2 on the road; Islanders - 8-7-1 at home.

Associated Press
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