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Rangers Face Islanders for First Time This Season

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Rangers (1-5-1, 3 pts) vs. Islanders (2-3-1, 5 pts)
7 pm, Madison Square Garden
MSG Network; ESPN 1050 AM

The Game

The Rangers and Islanders meet for the first time Thursday night when the Blueshirts host the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers are coming off a frustrating but promising game Tuesday night against the Penguins. New York was able to erase an early 2-0 deficit and eventually led in the third period before Pittsburgh struck late in regulation and then early in overtime to take the contest, 5-4.

The reason to feel optimistic is that for the first time since Oct. 7, the Rangers posted four goals, all scored by different players. Three of those players - David Desharnais, Pavel Buchnevich and Michael Grabner - netted their first of the season, while J.T. Miller scored for the first time since that Oct. 7 game in Toronto.

Ryan McDonagh did not practice on Wednesday but is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night. Henrik Lundqvist is the projected Blueshirts' netminder.

Tonight marks the Islanders' first game since wrapping up a California road trip on Sunday, during which it went 1-2.

Similar to the Rangers, the Islanders' offense hasn't found its groove yet. Through six games, the Islanders have 15 goals, with six of them coming in the team's second game of the year against Buffalo.

Casey Cizikas is leading the team with five points, with Brock Nelson and Joshua Ho-Sang right behind with four. Jordan Eberle, whom the team acquired from Edmonton in the offseason, has three assists in six games, while John Tavares has just two goals and an assist.

The Islanders' power play has struggled early with no goals on 20 opportunities.

Players to Watch

Buchnevich told NYRangers.com last week that he was hopeful this year would go much like last year in term of goal scoring. During his rookie campaign, Buchnevich struggled to net his first goal, but once he did, he scored in four consecutive games. No. 89 notched his first of the year Tuesday and has been one of the team's best forwards with four points in seven contests and has been a fixture on the team's top power play unit.

While no starter has been announced, goaltender Jaroslav Halak has had great success against the Rangers in his career. The 32-year-old is 14-7 with a .921 SV% and a 2.57 GAA and two shutouts. He's 4-1 in his last five starts against the Rangers dating back to Dec. 2, 2015.

Say What?

"I'm looking forward to this game. It's something that I've watched growing up. I remember how intense it was. They're our cross-town rivals. It's going to be a big one, rivalry wise." - Kevin Shattenkirk on his first game against the Islanders as a Ranger.

Project Lineup

Rick Nash - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Jimmy Vesey - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
Michael Grabner - Adam Cracknell - Pavel Buchnevich

Ryan McDonagh - Tony DeAngelo
Marc Staal - Kevin Shattenkirk
Brady Skjei - Brendan Smith

Henrik Lundqvist

Inside the Numbers

Tonight marks the 263rd meeting between the Rangers and Islanders. The Blueshirts have earned at least a point in 16 of its last 27 games against the Islanders dating back to Nov. 15, 2011

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