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Will Isles prevent Rangers' playoff push?

by Brian Compton
RANGERS (33-32-10) at ISLANDERS (31-34-10)

Last 10: Rangers 4-4-2; Islanders 5-3-2.

Season Series: This is the sixth and final meeting between the New York rivals. The Islanders have won three of the matchups, but the Rangers are coming off a 5-0 victory against the Isles last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

Big Story: The Blueshirts are still very much alive in the playoff race, thanks to losses by both Boston and Atlanta on Monday night. John Tortorella's club heads to Long Island just four points behind the Bruins for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and two behind No. 9 Atlanta.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Nothing comes easy for the Rangers, who will likely play without Sean Avery and Ryan Callahan on Tuesday night. Callahan re-injured his leg last Thursday against the Devils, while Avery suffered an apparent knee injury on Saturday in Toronto.

"It’s a tough break, he's probably playing his best hockey of the year," Tortorella said of Avery after the Rangers lost to the Maple Leafs in overtime. "He's really focused in the past couple of weeks. He's a big part of us trying to find a way and it's a tough break -- not only for him, more importantly, for the hockey club."

Islanders: Scott Gordon's club enters Tuesday's action eight points behind the Bruins with only seven games remaining. Nonetheless, it's a step in the right direction for the franchise, considering it finished with the fewest points in the NHL (61) last season.

Still, it's important that the Islanders put forth a much better effort against the Rangers this time around. Gordon is confident his team will do just that after being embarrassed in Manhattan six nights earlier.

"There wasn't anything that was good," Gordon told Islanders Point Blank on Monday morning. "We let ourselves down. We need to have the same kind of response we did 24 hours later against Calgary. The Rangers can't afford to not have a good game against us tomorrow. They'll be ready."

Who's Hot: Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky has goals in each of his last two games and a three-game points streak. … Isles defenseman Mark Streit has five points in his last five contests.

Injury Report: Besides Avery and Callahan, the Rangers are also without forward Brian Boyle (foot). … The following are all out for the Islanders -- Doug Weight (shoulder), Radek Martinek (torn ACL), Rick DiPietro (knee), Dustin Kohn (concussion) and Rob Schremp (knee). Bruno Gervais (groin) is day-to-day, while Andrew MacDonald is expected to return after missing four weeks with a broken foot.

Stat Pack: With Saturday's 3-2 loss in Toronto on Saturday night, the Rangers are 1-7 in overtime games this season.

Puck Drop: "For all the chances they had and then score on a shot like that, it's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. At least we got a point, but it's real frustrating." -- Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist after Saturday's loss

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