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GAME DAY: Battle of New York, The Finale

Rangers Invade Coliseum with Chance for Franchise Record on the Road

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
MSG Network, 98.7 FM

GAME DAY
There is always the possibility that this could be the final time the Rangers hit the ice for a Battle of New York at Nassau Coliseum. Whatever the case, when they get there on Tuesday night this Rangers team will have a chance to achieve a franchise first.

The Blueshirts will aim to set a new team record with their eighth consecutive road win on Tuesday night, and they won't have to travel far to do so: Tuesday's game will be their second and final visit to Uniondale - they won a thriller in the first one - and will close out the four-game season series with the Islanders.

The Isles can salvage a split of that season series after the Rangers took the first two - all of them coming in a span of nine days in January. Far more immediate and important for the Rangers, though, is continuing to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and for the Isles, trying to hold their red-hot rivals at bay.

As recently as Jan. 31, the gap between these teams in the standings was 13 points - the Rangers have hacked that down by more than half, and with a win on Tuesday night could climb to within four points of the Islanders, current holders of the top Wild Card spot in the East.

Of course, once the puck is dropped on Rangers vs. Islanders, no one is really thinking about the math for the 60 minutes to come.

"That's going to be a huge game," said Ryan Lindgren, the rookie blueliner out of Minnesota whose D partner, Adam Fox, grew up just down the road from the Coliseum in Jericho. "That was a fun building a play in when we were there earlier in the season -- it was such an intense game. And now that it's later in the season and we're trying to catch them in the standings, that's definitely going to be a playoff atmosphere in there.

"The fans are going to be wild, it's going to be a physical game, so we better make sure we bring it."

The Rangers' Coliseum visit earlier in the season, on Jan. 16, was won by a power-play goal from Chris Kreider with 24.6 seconds left to lift the Blueshirts to a 3-2 win. Tuesday's game would be Kreider's first since committing with the Rangers on a seven-year that the sides signed on Monday, although there may be some question to his status after he was held out of Monday's practice with an illness.

Alexandar Georgiev, though, will be there for sure, as he has tended to be against the Islanders. In six career games against the Isles, Georgiev has won four of them and has averaged under two goals-against per game (1.92). Given his numbers and with the Rangers beginning a stretch of three games in four nights, this was likely to be Georgiev's game in any event, although it will be the Rangers' first game since Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident on Sunday night that left Shesterkin, the rookie goaltender, with a nondisplaced rib fracture, and Buchnevich shaken up but with no major injuries.

Buchnevich is considered day-to-day, Rangers President John Davidson said; Shesterkin will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Rangers announced what happened with those players at the same time they had the happier news to share about Kreider's new contract on Monday. Later that day, the Islanders made a bold move to address a current need, sending a pair of picks to Ottawa in exchange for center Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The 27-year-old Pageau, like Kreider, has 24 goals in 60 games this season, and, also like Kreider, signed a new contract on Monday, inking a six-year deal with the Isles. Tuesday will be the center's first steps in a new role with a new team after spending the first eight seasons of his career as a Senator. His acquisition came eight days after the Isles picked up defenseman Andy Greene in a Feb. 16 deal for the Devils' captain.

Pageau and his new teammates will be trying to put together their first three-game winning streak since mid-December. The Isles came home from a lost road trip out West - scoring two total goals in four straight losses - and defeated the Red Wings and Sharks to start their three-game Coliseum homestand that concludes with Tuesday's visit from the Blueshirts.

Anders Lee enjoyed his first multi-goal game in more than a year in the Isles' 4-1 victory Sunday over the Sharks, who were beaten at Madison Square Garden the day before. The Islander captain, a 40-goal scorer two seasons ago, has 19 this year; Brock Nelson paces the Isles with 22 goals, two of them in three games against the Blueshirts.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said on Monday that no call-ups were imminent on defense for his club, and that he expects Brendan Smith to step in on the left side after the Rangers brought in a first-round Draft pick on Deadline Day in exchange for Brady Skjei.

Semyon Varlamov - 0-2 against the Rangers this year, allowing nine goals on 63 shots (.857) - is expected to oppose Georgiev.


NUMBERS GAME

The Rangers have won seven straight road games for only the third time in the franchise's 93 seasons - they did so from Jan. 12 to Feb. 12, 1935; and from Oct. 28 to Nov. 29, 1979. No Rangers team has ever won eight straight on the road.

The Rangers' power play, seventh in the League at 23.1 percent, is 5-for-12 this season against the Islanders.

On Monday, Mika Zibanejad was named the NHL's Second Star of last week, during which he had three goals and eight points in three games. But Zibanejad's current point streak stretches over seven games now, during which he has 6-7--13 and a plus-9.

Zibanejad's next goal will be his 100th as a Ranger.

Artemi Panarin brings a nine-game point streak into Tuesday's game; former Islander Ryan Strome has an eight-game point streak.

Panarin is fifth in the NHL with 83 points - 24 of them (10 goals) have come in 16 Metropolitan Division games.

Alexandar Georgiev is 4-2/1.92/.934 with one shutout in his career against the Islanders.

Chris Kreider has scored in three straight games against the Isles, including the last-minute winner at the Coliseum on Jan. 16.

The Blueshirts are 12-3 in their last 15 Metro Division games.

The Rangers have outscored the Islanders 7-3 in third periods this season.

The Islanders are 13-7-1 this season at Nassau Coliseum, and 7-0-3 at Barclays Center.

Mathew Barzal will play his 228th NHL game; his next point will be his 200th in the League. Barzal can become the fastest Islander to 200 points since Ziggy Palffy, who got there in 205 games.

Anders Lee has five points (two goals) in the last two games. The Isles' captain has played in 261 consecutive games.

Two-time Jack Adams Award winner Barry Trotz, in his second season behind the Islanders' bench, recently passed Terry Simpson into third place all-time in wins by an Isles Head Coach. Trotz has won 83 games; Jack Capuano is second with 227, trailing Al Arbour's 740.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Artemi Panarin has played in 60 of the Rangers' 61 games this season, having missed only the Jan. 21 match against the Isles. In the two games he did play in the Battle of New York, Panarin has six points. Panarin has 4-8--12 during his nine-game point streak, and is fifth in the NHL with 83 points.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau will make his Islanders debut a day after being acquired from Ottawa, where he spent his first eight NHL seasons. In the Senators' three games against the Rangers this season, Pageau had three goals and five points. In his career, Pageau has 6-7--13 in 17 games against the Rangers in the regular season, plus six goals during a six-game series in the 2017 Playoffs.

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