Game day (43): Islanders at Rangers, 7 pm

Madison Square Garden — New York, NY
TV: MSG Plus Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, WRCN 103.9 FM

The Least You Should Know About the Rangers… The Blueshirts have won five straight games and are winners of 13 of their last 14 contests. The Rangers have not accomplished a feat like that since 1973 when the won 14 of their 15 games from January 7 to February 10… Martin St. Louis will be playing in his 1,100th career game tonight. St.Louis has 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) this season for the Rangers… Rangers’ All-Star representative Rick Nash leads the team in points (41) and goals (26) through 39 games played in the 2014-15 season.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

NEW YORK — The New York Rangers and Islanders are different teams since the two last met in the Big Apple in October.

There was still doubt at where the Islanders level of play would be at this year and the Rangers were off to a 1-2-0 star to the season. Fast forward to today, the Isles have solidified just how good they are this season and the Rangers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

The two New York teams place in the standings have created a real buzz around tonight’s battle at Madison Square Garden– the Rangers are third in in the Metropolitan Division, while the Isles hold sole possession of first place. The Islanders need the two points to put distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as the Rangers. The Blueshirts would like to extend their winning streak to six and inch closer to the top spot in the Metropolitan.

“These two points are the biggest so far this season,” Casey Cizikas said after the Islanders optional morning skate at MSG.

The Islanders are expecting a tough battle tonight when they take the ice. The Rangers have scored at least three goals in their last five games and the team’s special teams has been very affective. The Blueshirts lead the league in power play percentage since December 16 and their penalty kill has gone 38-for-44 in their last 15 contests. To read more of this story, click here

Islanders and Rangers set for Broadway battle

NHL: New York Islanders at New York Rangers

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

Meetings  between the Islanders and New York Rangers have not meant much in seasons past, but when the two teams take the ice at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, two very valuable points will be on the line.

It really hasn’t been since the 90s that a meeting between New York’s two hockey clubs was something of a must-see event, but with every other New York sports team seemingly out of the picture, the Rangers and Islanders will take center stage. The Isles sit atop the Metropolitan Division and have been one of the best teams in the league through much of the first half of the season.

The Rangers have gotten hot, winning 13 of their last 14 games. It is the first time since 1973 that the Blueshirts have accomplished such a feat. Equally as impressive is the fact that the Rangers are the first team since the 1997-98 Montreal Canadiens to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers all on the road.

“You look at the records the last four weeks in the National Hockey League,” Islanders’ Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “[The Rangers] have the best record. It’s a good hockey club. A lot of experience, Stanley Cup Final last year. We just have to go in there with the mindset of playing the way that we have been playing. We can’t change the way we play. We have to manage the puck, play physical, play fast and, obviously, we’re going to have to get some pucks and bodies to the net.” To read more of this story, click here

Practice report: Isles prepare for Blueshirts

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

The Islanders were on the ice Monday morning in preparation for their Tuesday battle with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Mikhail Grabovski and Lubomir Visnovsky did not take part in the Islanders’ skate at IceWorks in Syosset. Grabovski did do some off-ice work, according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, at the Islanders’ practice facility. Visnovsky is on IR retroactive to January 4 and Grabovski is day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Tuesday’s game will be important for both clubs. The Islanders are trying to put some more space between themselves and the teams below them and the Rangers are trying catch up with the Metropolitan Division-leading Isles.

However, all of that is not on the mind of the Islanders, according to head coach Jack Capuano.

“We don’t talk about our record. We don’t talk about the standings,” Capuano said. “We come to the rink everyday with a business like attitude and focus, and try to get better everyday. That’s all we can do.”

Below are the lines from Monday’s practice: To read more of this story, click here

Game Recap: Islanders 5 — Blue Jackets 2

Recap: The Islanders won for the first time in regulation in Columbus in the sixth game of their seven-game road trip.

Need to Know: The Islanders scored three second-period goals. They entered the second tied at 1 despite outshooting Columbus 16-4 in the first period and outshot the Jackets 37-18 for the game.

Islanders goalie Chad Johnson (16 saves) ended a personal three-game losing streak in which he’d allowed 4.3 goals a game.

Ryan Strome and Thomas Hickey had assists on the first two Isles’ goals in the second period (scored by Matt Martin and Anders Lee).

Nikolay Kulemin scored the Islanders’ first goal 31 seconds into the game and Brian Strait the fourth with 2:29 left in the second period. Strait, who scored for the first time this season, had an assist on Kyle Okposo’s goal with 5:06 remaining.

Before Saturday, Jackets goalie Sergey Bobrovsky was 10-2 with a 1.83 GAA lifetime against the Isles. . . The Islanders are now 2-7-1-1 all-time at Columbus’ Nationwide Arena.

Links: AP recap | Box Score

What’s Next:  The Islanders end their road trip Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, the rivals’ second of five regular-season meetings. The Islanders won the first one 6-3 in October.

Tavares headed to NHL All Star Weekend

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

John Tavares is an All-Star yet again.NHL: New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres

The Islanders’ captain has been selected to represent the team at the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend. He is the Islanders lone representative for this year’s festivities.

This will be Tavares’s second consecutive trip to the NHL’s All-Star festivities. He represented the team at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa. He had a goal and assist in that year’s game for Team Afredsson.

Tavares’s All-Star selection comes less than 24 hours after he propelled the Islanders to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils in overtime. He also scored the game tying goal in the third period against New Jersey.

The 2009 first overall pick holds the team lead in goals (19) and points (39) this season for the Islanders. 

Game day (42): Islanders at Blue Jackets, 7 pm

Nationwide Arena — Columbus, OH
TV: MSG Plus Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, WRCN 103.9 FM

The Least You Should Know About the Blue Jackets… Columbus is coming into tonight’s game off a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. The Blue Jackets are playing a league high 19 sets of back-to-back games and they have a record of 2-6-0 in the second game through eight sets… Ryan Johansen has been hot for the Blue Jackets. The 22-year-old star has scored a goal in five straight games and has recorded points in his last nine consecutive contests… The Blue Jackets haven’t had as much success at home as they would like. Columbus is 9-9-2 at Nationwide arena.

Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:

The Islanders took control of first place in the Metropolitan Division and will need  a win tonight if they would like to stay there. For that to happen they will have beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio.

Both clubs are playing the second game of back-to-backs. The Islanders defeated the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, while Columbus fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unlike the Blue Jackets, the Isles have faired much better in the second game of a back-to-back set with a 5-1-0 record.

The Islanders will turn to Chad Johnson, who last started on December 23 against the Montreal Canadiens, after Jaroslav Halak was between the pipes on Friday in New Jersey. Johnson only had two starts in the month of December. He is 5-5-0 this season, with a 3.54 goals against average and a .867 save percentage.

Capuano said, according to Newsday’s Mark Herrmann, that Johnson has “been working extremely hard.”

 The Islanders will also make some changes to their forward lines. Cal Clutterbuck will be back in the lineup, while Mikhail Grabovski will sit due to a lower body injury. Josh Bailey will play on the Islanders top line, while Michael Grabner will skate on a line with Nikolay Kulemin and Brock Nelson, according to Herrmann.

With Pittsburgh in action tonight — the Penguins sit one point behind the Islanders for first place in the Metro — a win is critical for the Isles to either maintain control of first or put some more space between themselves and the Penguins.

The Blue Jackets have also been gaining ground in the Metropolitan, with wins in 12 of their last 16 games and they will not be an easy opponent for the Isles. In the 2013-14 season, New York went 1-2-1 in four games against the Blue Jackets.

The Islanders will need a better start and overall performance than they had in New Jersey on Friday. Sloppy passing and decision making is something that cannot happen again or the Isles may not get as lucky as they did to get two points against the Devils.

Tavares, Isles snap losing streak with OT win over New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. — The Islanders needed a hero Friday night and they got one in the form of John Tavares. NHL: New York Islanders at New Jersey Devils

The Islanders’ captain scored the tying and game winning goal in a game that had the visitors playing out of their skates. Tavares went behind the net, picked Adam Larsson’s pocket, made his way to the front of the net and  put the puck behind Keith Kinkaid . The 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils snapped a two-game skid.

For good measure, Tavares celebrated the goal by throwing his hands up and down in the air in homage to the recognizable “Yes! Yes! Yes” chants that has become synonymous with the Islanders’ fan base.

“[Larsson] did really have an idea or get the sense where pressure was coming from,” Tavares said about his game winning goal. “I just tried to get a good jump on him and get an opportunity to strip him. Just took it to the net. I kind of saw [Calvin de Haan] coming and their guy didn’t really commit to me, so I just took it to the net.

“The goalie committed to me and I just took the far side.”  To read more of this story, click here