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GAME DAY: Battle Of New York, Part III

Rangers Out to Keep Rolling vs. Isles; Georgiev vs. Greiss in Pre-Break Finale on Broadway

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS vs. ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
Madison Square Garden
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

GAME DAY
The breather can wait. Ring the bell for Round 3.

"Last game, we leave it all out there," Mika Zibanejad said. "We have a lot of days off. There's no need to save anything. So let's go."

The All-Star break arrives on Wednesday morning, but the Islanders arrive on Tuesday night, when the Rangers and their rivals come together once more at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts will be out to bounce back from a stinging last-minute loss, while the Islanders will look to break a three-game skid, and both sides, like every other team, will try to carry themselves the All-Star break on a high note.

But when it comes to a game like Rangers vs. Islanders, all that takes a backseat to this: These bitter rivals will play each other for the third time in nine days, and the Rangers won the first two with a rout and a riveting finish. Now, Round 3.

"We know they're going to come with a really good effort, and they definitely aren't going to be happy with the results of the last two games. So we know what it takes," Ryan Strome said. "It's going to be a playoff atmosphere out there and we've got to be ready to go."

"When you play a team that many times in a short period of time, there is certainly an overlap from game to game," said David Quinn. "But that being said, we can't think about that. It's a brand new game starting (Tuesday) night. We've got to get off to a good start, we've got to do a lot of the things we did over that six-period stretch (against the Isles). Actually, five-period stretch -- subtract that first period on the Island."

Well, don't subtract it from Alexandar Georgiev, because the Rangers' goaltender was at his best during those 20 minutes last Thursday on Long Island, which is saying something when it comes to Georgiev against the Islanders. The Rangers' 24-year-old netminder made 21 saves in that opening frame to keep the game within reach let his team settle down between periods of a game they went on to win, 3-2, on Chris Kreider's power-play goal with 24.6 seconds to play.

On Tuesday night Georgiev will start for the third time this season against a rival he already has beaten twice. In his career, Georgiev is 4-1 - he was not the starter in the one loss - with a 1.40 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage. He'll be opposed by Thomas Greiss on Tuesday.

Artemi Panarin will play his last game before heading out to St. Louis as a Metropolitan Division All-Star. Panarin has 68 points through 47 games as a Ranger - six of those coming in two games against the Islanders. He put up a career-high-matching five points in the Rangers' 6-2 blowout last Monday, then started the winning play in the final half-minute of Thursday's thriller at Nassau Coliseum.

That was the Rangers' fourth win in a five-game span. Their momentum was blunted by a late goal by Columbus in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets, the Rangers' first loss on Garden ice since Dec. 20.

The Blueshirts did get Brendan Lemieux back from a fractured hand in that game - Lemieux played more than half of his 13:49 in the third period when he was moved onto Zibanejad's wing. On Tuesday Lemieux will play in his first Rangers-Islanders game.

"We've moved on from (Sunday) night," Quinn said. "Obviously we need to learn from what happened, but we need to move past it as quickly as possible."

"Even though (Sunday) night stung, we've won four out of the last six -- can we make that five out of seven?" Zibanejad said. "If we do, you have momentum and you go on a break with a pretty good feeling. And you're still in the hunt and not far away -- we have a couple games in hand as well. That's going to be able to let you rest in a way where you're happy, and in the right kind of mindset."

Zibanejad knows something about it. One year and two days ago, in the pre-break finale in Boston, the Rangers' top center scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner on a third-period power play to beat the Bruins. His performance took him into that break with five goals in three games, and as one of only two Rangers in franchise history, along with Rod Gilbert, to have scored game-winning goals in three consecutive games.

Once this season's nine-day break concludes, there is no easing back in for the Rangers: A home-and-home with the Red Wings is the first of 16 games between Jan. 31 and the end of February, followed by 15 more games in March.

The Islanders, meanwhile, have been on a sprint in the lead-up to the break: Tuesday's game will be their seventh in 11 days. They are just 1-3-2 in the first six of that stretch, including the pair of losses to the Rangers, and have suffered all five of those defeats in different ways.

The Blueshirts burned Semyon Varlamov for nine goals on 63 shots in their two wins; Greiss will take a turn after stopping 31 of 32 Carolina shots on Sunday.

The Isles' other regulation loss during this seven-game sprint was a crusher, too, when they held a 4-1 lead on the Capitals on Saturday at the Coliseum, then surrendered five unanswered in a 6-4 loss. Their most recent defeat came in an eight-round shootout, 2-1 in Carolina on Sunday, a game that Head Coach Barry Trotz called "a playoff-type game."

The Rangers and Islanders are in for another one on Tuesday night. Ring the bell on Round 3.


PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
10 Panarin - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
20 Kreider - 93 Zibanejad - 48 Lemieux
21 Howden - 72 Chytil - 24 Kakko
42 Smith - 14 McKegg - 89 Buchnevich

76 Skjei - 8 Trouba
18 Staal - 77 DeAngelo
55 Lindgren - 23 Fox

40 Georgiev
30 Lundqvist

ISLANDERS
27 Lee - 13 Barzal - 7 Eberle
18 Beauvillier - 29 Nelson - 12 Bailey
28 Dal Colle - 10 Brassard - 14 Kuhnhackl
17 Martin - 53 Cizikas - 47 Komarov

2 Leddy - 6 Pulock
25 D. Toews - 24 Mayfield
8 Dobson - 55 Boychuk

1 Greiss
40 Varlamov


NUMBERS GAME

Artemi Panarin leads the NHL in points per 60 minutes, with 3.69, and is second in assists per 60 minutes, with 2.38, behind Evgeni Malkin's 2.44. (Minimum 10 games)

Panarin has six points in two games against the Islanders this season. All Islanders combined have 11 points in the two games.

The Rangers are 10-2 in their last 12 games within the Metropolitan Division. Tuesday's game is their last division match on home ice until March 1 against the Flyers.

The Blueshirts are 5-1 in their last six games on Broadway, outscoring opponents 28-14.

Chris Kreider has nine goals and 14 points over the last 15 games.

The Rangers have allowed one power-play goal in their last six home games (18-for-19 on PKs).

The Islanders are 3-5-2 in January. Tuesday's game closes out the month for them.

Following their 17-game points streak (15-0-2) from Oct. 12 to Nov. 23, the Islanders are 12-12-3 since.

Jordan Eberle had three goals in his first 31 games this season, and has four goals in his last seven games, one of them at Madison Square Garden last Monday.

Thomas Greiss is 4-0-1/2.66/.921 in seven career games against the Rangers.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jesper Fast will skate in his 400th NHL game on Tuesday night, all in a Blueshirt. Over the last six games Fast has seven points (2-5--7) and a plus-6, including a goal and two assists last Monday against the Isles. Fast is 12th among NHL forwards at plus-15.

After going 13 games with no goals and two assists, Anthony Beavillier has five points (2-3--5) in the last four games, including the tying goal in the third period of last Thursday match with the Rangers. Beauvillier has eight goals and 14 points in 12 career games against the Blueshirts.

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