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New York Islanders (33-37-5) at New York Rangers (42-21-12)
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Having ended what had been the NHLss longest active playoff drought, the New York Rangers look to take another step toward winning the Atlantic Division title when they face the rival New York Islanders.

The Rangers avoided falling into a tie atop the division and ended up increasing their lead to three points on Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout victory over the second-place Philadelphia Flyers.

Backup goalie Kevin Weekes made 21 saves and Petr Sykora scored the winner in the shootout as the Rangers locked up a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

"We're speaking kind of casually now that we did clinch a playoff berth," Weekes said. "But when you stop and think about what that means and how that looked in August and how that looked in September, to now be in this position ... it's very gratifying."

Weekes got the start in place of Henrik Lundqvist, whose standout rookie season is one of the biggest reasons the Rangers are back in the playoffs. It's unclear if Lundqvist, the franchise's first rookie to win 30 games, will be able to return for this contest after sitting out Tuesday with a sore hip.

The Rangers have won three of four since back-to-back shootout losses. They also have won five of six at home.

The Islanders were officially eliminated from postseason contention with Wednesday's 3-2 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They had reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons.

It was the fifth loss in a row for the Isles, matching a season high. They've scored a total of four goals during this skid.

The Isles blew a pair of leads and outshot Toronto 29-22 in Wednesday's defeat.

"A couple of unfortunate bounces wound up in (our net)," goalie Garth Snow said. "It's a tough position to be in."

Since losing the first two meetings this season, the Rangers have won four straight against the Islanders. The teams close their season series on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

STANDINGS: Islanders - 71 points, 4th place, 25 PB, Atlantic Division. Rangers - 96 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Miroslav Satan, 30 goals; Mike York, 37 assists; Alexei Yashin, 62 points; John Erskine, 140 PIM. Rangers - Jaromir Jagr, 52 goals, 63 assists and 115 points; Darius Kasparaitis, 97 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 4): Islanders - Power play: 16.8 percent (67 for 400), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.0 percent (346 for 438), 27th. Rangers - Power play: 18.9 percent (78 for 413), 8th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (379 for 449), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - Rick DiPietro (27-23-5, 0 SO, 3.08 GAA); Snow (4-11-0, 3.72). Rangers - Lundqvist (30-11-9, 2, 2.18); Weekes (12-10-3, 2.90).

SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 4-2.

LAST MEETING: March 29; Rangers, 5-1. At Uniondale, N.Y., Jagr had four assists, breaking the Rangers' single-season points record, and Martin Straka scored three goals.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 15-19-3 on the road; Rangers - 24-8-6 at home.
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