(7:30 p.m. ET, TV: FSN NY | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) The Nassau Coliseum will be rockin' tonight as the Islanders host the New York Rangers in their first meeting of the season on Long Island.
In their first two meetings both at Madison Square Garden the Islanders were victorious behind four goals from Viktor Kozlov, in the first game, and a hat trick by Jason Blake in the most recent contest.
In both games, the Islanders jumped out to substantial leads, taking a 4-0 advantage in the first game and eventually winning 7-4. On December 19, the Islanders were up 4-1, before going on to win 4-3.
If the Islanders win tonight in regulation, they will move ahead of the Rangers, who have one point more than the Islanders. However, the Rangers have played three more games than the Islanders.
The last game before Christmas break saw the Islanders top the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. Rick DiPietro recorded his third shutout of the year and ninth of his career. He has not surrendered a goal on home ice in 125:43, dating back to the Islanders' 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on December 9.
Offensively, Jason Blake, Trent Hunter, Mike Sillinger and Viktor Kozlov contributed goals in the win against Columbus. Blake scored his 20th goal of the season, reaching that plateau for the fourth year in a row. He is only eight goals away from his record of 28. Blake's 20 goals are only four off the NHL-pace, and tied for sixth in the league.
Alexei Yashin may have missed some time, but he has picked up right where he's left off. He has earned a point in each of the last nine games he has played, totaling five goals and eights assists in that span.
Turning to the Rangers, the Blueshirts are in their biggest funk of the season having lost five games in a row, including one to the Islanders. Their latest game was one of their worst losses of the season. Taking a 3-0 lead into the third period of their game against Tampa Bay, the Rangers began their collapse just 1:04 into the final period. Three goals by Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle and one by Vincent Lecavalier was enough for a 4-3 victory over the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist returned to the lineup against Tampa Bay after sitting out two starts with the flu.
Despite their recent woes, the Rangers are as dangerous as ever offensively with four players in the top 20 in scoring: Jaromir Jagr (2nd), Martin Straka (T-11th), Michael Nylander (T-13th) and Brendan Shanahan (16th).
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on FSN NY.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR FSN NY ON LONG ISLAND
FSN NY: 72
FSN NY: 624
FSN NY: 413
FSN NY: 725
The New York Islanders play on consecutive days a total of 15 times this season. They recently wrapped up their sixth set with a 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last Friday night and a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets last Saturday night. Tonight, they start their seventh back-to-back set of games against the New York Rangers. Tomorrow night, they faceoff against the Ottawa Senators in Kanata, Ontario. In the first game of these sets, the Islanders have a 2-4-0 record. However, in the second game of these sets, the Islanders are undefeated at 6-0-0.
BLAKE OFF TO CAREER BEST START
Jason Blake is off to the best start of his NHL career. Through the first 34 games of the season, Blake has recorded a team-leading 20 goals with 17 assists for 37 points and leads the team in scoring. Blake's previous high through 34 games is 29 points set in 2005-06. His best NHL season came in the 2002-03 season when he recorded 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points. That year he recorded 19 points through the first 34 games.
BLAKE ON THE NHL CHARTS
Jason Blake's career-season is helping him make a presence in the NHL stats. His 20 goals places him tied for sixth in the NHL while his 11 power plays goals puts him tied for third in the league.
HATS OFF FOR BLAKE
Jason Blake recorded his fourth career hat-trick and first natural hat trick against the New York Rangers on December 19th. The last time Blake recorded a hat trick was on November 26, 2005 at Philadelphia.
SILLINGER THE FACEOFF SPECIALIST
Mike Sillinger has been a faceoff specialist for his entire NHL career and currently second in the NHL with a 59.9 faceoff wining percentage. The 16-year veteran has ranked in the top-15 among NHL faceoff leaders in each of the past five seasons. Sillinger has also played for an NHL record twelve franchises.
DiPIETRO EARNS NINTH CAREER SHUTOUT
Rick DiPietro earned his ninth career NHL shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, December 23 at Nassau Coliseum with a 26 save performance. It was his third shutout of the season with the others coming on November 15 at Dallas and on December 16 versus Atlanta.
WHEN LEADING AFTER TWO
The Islanders have the fourth best record in the NHL when leading after the period with a mark of 17-0-1. When leading after the first period, the team is 12-0-1.
SATURDAY NIGHT'S ALRIGHT
Saturday night's are alright for the Islanders so far this season. The team has a record of 10-2-0 on Saturday night's with the only losses occurring on October 7 at San Jose and November 4 versus Atlanta.
AT THE COLISEUM
The Islanders are coming off back-to-back home shutout victories at the Nassau Coliseum. On Saturday, December 16, the Islanders shutout the Atlanta Thrashers 6-0. Most recently, the Islanders defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on Saturday, December 23. Rick DiPietro had both shutouts in net. Following tonight's game, the Islanders next home game is on Saturday, December 30 against New Jersey.
Islanders 39 points, 3rd place, Atlantic Division
Rangers - 40 points, 2nd place, Atlantic Division
Islanders Jason Blake, 20 goals, 37 points; Alexei Yashin, 21 assists; Brendan Witt, 70 PIM.
Rangers Brendan Shanahan, 23 goals; Jaromir Jagr, 35 assists, 51 points; Ryan Hollweg, 67 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 17.3 percent. Penalty killing: 79.8 percent.
Rangers - Power play: 18.6 percent. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent.
Islanders Rick DiPietro (15-10-1, 2.78 GAA, .913 SV%); Mike Dunham (3-3-2, 2.83, .916).
Rangers Henrik Lundqvist (14-9-2, 3.16, .895); Kevin Weekes (4-6-2, 3.21, .881).
Islanders 10-6-2 at home
Rangers 11-8-1 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
8 Bruno Gervais
14 Chris Campoli
24 Radek Martinek
32 Brendan Witt
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
12 Chris Simon
17 Shawn Bates
18 Mike Sillinger
25 Viktor Kozlov
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin
81 Miroslav Satan
30 Henrik Lundqvist
80 Kevin Weekes
3 Michal Rozsival
4 Aaron Ward
6 Darius Kasparaitis
22 Thomas Pock
23 Karel Rachunek
51 Fedor Tyutin
5 Matt Cullen
14 Brendan Shanahan
16 Jason Ward
18 Adam Hall
19 Blair Betts
25 Petr Prucha
28 Colton Orr
38 Jarkko Immonen
43 Ryan Callahan
44 Ryan Hollweg
68 Jaromir Jagr
81 Marcel Hossa
82 Martin Straka
92 Michael Nylander