New York, NY — Madison Square Garden — MSG+
Tonight the Islanders head to Madison Square Garden to renew their rivalry against the Rangers. It’s the first meeting of the season between the teams and they’ll play again next Thursday at MSG — Valentine’s Day of all days.
Both teams have hit a rough patch recently. After beating Pittsburgh and New Jersey on the road last week, the Islanders lost at home to both of those two teams earlier this week. They’re back to NHL .500 on the year, 4-4-1, and don’t have to be desperate tonight per se, but a win against a divisional rival does go a long way in this shortened season.
The Rangers haven’t been able to get on much of a roll so far this year. They’ve lost one, won one, lost a couple, won a couple. It’s been that kind of season for them. Like the Islanders, they’ve also had trouble in the division; losing to both the Devils and Penguins in the past week. Henrik Lundqvist has looked human sporting a .900 save percentage at the moment.
The Rangers offense, while point per game producers like Garboik, Richards and Nash are producing, only have 20 goals in their first nine games. They’ve also got some power play troubles of their own; they were 0-for-5 against the Devils Tuesday and are a league worst 8.6% on the power play this season (making the Isles 23.7% look en fuego by comparison). This is a team that isn’t quite playing up to its supposed potential.
The Islanders will get some reinforcements, although not for tonight’s game. Josh Bailey and Lubomir Visnovsky are unlikely to go tonight and will most likely be ready for Saturday’s game at home against Buffalo (pending the potential blizzard scheduled to hit Long Island Friday night).
Matt Carkner will miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury and Jeff Finley will take his place. Evgeni Nabokov starts in goal and Eric Boulton will return to the lineup, meaning Casey Cizikas probably sits.
Moulson – Tavares – Boyes
Grabner – Nielsen – Okposo
Ullstrom – Aucoin – McDonald
Martin – Reasoner – Boulton
Hamonic – MacDonald
Streit – Strait
Finley – Hickey