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Rangers, Isles start home-and-home at Coliseum

by Eric Goodman /
RANGERS (14-11-1) at ISLANDERS (5-12-5)

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

Season series -- This is the second of six regular-season games between the Rangers and Islanders. The Islanders took the first meeting, 6-4 at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 11. 

Big Story -- While neither the Blueshirts nor the Isles are playing their best hockey at the moment, a meeting between these two long-time New York rivals should guarantee an all-out physical affair. The first matchup of the season featured players jawing at center ice during pre-game warmups and the game action followed suit with a total of 30 penalty minutes between both clubs. Thursday's game should bring pretty much the same type of high intensity that has become a trademark for this nearly 40-year rivalry.

Team Scope:
Rangers -- The Blueshirts have struggled to maintain any sort of consistency this season and Monday's 3-1 loss to the visiting Penguins further drove home that point. New York had built a modest two-game winning streak before hosting Sidney Crosby & Co. but it gave up the first three goals of that game and couldn't get much going offensively. Although the Rangers had two separate three-game winning streaks earlier this season, they haven't been able to piece together a substantial string of victories thus far.

"All night it was a bit of a ping-pong match, (the Penguins would) have shifts in our zone and then we’d have some shifts in their zone," Brandon Dubinsky told the Rangers' website after the game. "We just didn't generate enough scoring chances, didn't get it to the net often enough."

Islanders --
New York was finally able to end its 14-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory over the struggling Devils this past Friday. Goalie Rick DiPietro was stellar between the pipes, earning his first shutout of the season by turning aside all 29 Devils shots on goal. Jesse Joensuu potted his first goal of the season and Rob Schremp added the insurance tally to help the Islanders avoid a club-record 15 straight games without a win, which occurred on Nov. 22-Dec. 23, 1999.

But the Islanders know they have to take it one game at a time, as their 15 points has them mired in last place in the entire NHL. However, interim coach Jack Capuano was pleased to finally earn his first win with the team.

"I was happy for the guys," Capuano told's Dyan LeBourdais following Friday's game. "We've worked very hard lately, and it's nice to get rewarded."

Who's Hot --
Marian Gaborik scored the Rangers' lone goal on Monday and now has points (2-3-5) in five of his last seven games. … DiPietro has steadily been improving for the Isles over his last three games. Friday's shutout win was a long time coming as the Islanders goalie made a total of 73 saves in his two starts prior to that, but was bested in overtime in both those games.

Injury Report -- Team captain Chris Drury (finger) and forward Vinny Prospal (knee) remain out for the Rangers. … For the Islanders, defensemen Mark Streit (shoulder), Milan Jurcina (hamstring), Andrew MacDonald (hand) and Mike Mottau (eye), as well as forward Kyle Okposo (shoulder) are all on injured reserve. Team captain Doug Weight remains questionable after missing the last four games with back spasms. The Islanders' official site did say on Monday that MacDonald and defenseman Jack Hillen (concussion) are both eyeing a return to the lineup "as soon as possible."

Stat Pack -- Numbers don't lie and proof of that is seen with the Islanders' goals-for and goals-against average this season. The Isles are second-to-last in the NHL with an average of 2.09 goals a game and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference with an average of 3.18 goals against per game.

Puck Drop --
A 14-game losing streak certainly can bring a team down, but usually just one win is all that's needed to give them new life.

"It's like a big weight was taken off our shoulders," Islanders center John Tavares told the club's website following Friday's win.

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