After what was described as a playoff-like atmosphere Tuesday in New Jersey, the Rangers are expecting more of the same tonight when they host the Islanders at The Garden.
The Rangers enter tonight's game with a magic number of seven points either earned by them or lost by the Islanders. And while the Islanders enter tonight's game three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said the Rangers must be as desperate as team's fighting for their playoff lives until their spot in the postseason is secured.
"I don't know about the rest of you," Vigneault told the media after Wednesday's morning skate, "but I know I'm very desperate. I don't see a checkmark by our name, and I want that checkmark. We're going to come ready to play tonight."
Derek Stepan said the Islanders are no different than most teams in the playoff hunt at this time of the year, especially those the Rangers have faced as of late, including Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida, all of whom are clinging to postseason aspirations.
"It just comes down to competing," Stepan said. "You want to make sure you go out there and compete every single night. You put a good effort on the ice and you make sure you get the job done. That's all it comes down to. At this point in the year, we don't have the check mark. We need to be just as desperate as the Islanders."
Wednesday is the fourth and final meeting between these New York rivals. The juice between the two teams is never lacking, but the fact that playoff positioning is one the line only adds to the intensity.
The Rangers have lost the last two games against the Islanders, both of which were in Brooklyn. The Blueshirts did beat the Islanders at The Garden on opening night in October.
Vigneault said that in addition to the points, there's a level of pride in these intra-state matchups as well.
"It's New York. It's about having some bragging rights a little bit," Vigneault said. "So far against the Islanders, they've got all the bragging rights because we haven't been very good against them."
Stepan, who will face the Islanders for the 32nd time in his career, said the games between the two clubs always have a different feel than others on the schedule.
"It'll be good. We always have good atmospheres," Stepan said. "It's a good rivalry. It's a good hockey game. It's fun to play in. I don't expect anything less from the Islanders tonight."