(7:00 p.m. ET, TV: VERSUS | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) The battle of New York returns to Madison Square Garden tonight when the Islanders travel to Manhattan for the fourth and final time this regular season. The game will be nationally televised on VERSUS.
It's been almost two month since the Islanders and Rangers last met, but Islanders fans won't forget anytime soon what the season series is 4-0-0 Islanders.
In their last meeting, on January 9th at the Garden, the Islanders used third-period goals by Viktor Kozlov and Mike Sillinger to skate past the Rangers 5-3. Kozlov has been magnificent against the Rangers this season, compiling five goals and one assist in four games, including a four-goal performance at the Garden on December 3rd.
Jason Blake has also been impressive, tallying four goals in four games against the Blueshirts, while Miroslav Satan has two goals and three assists in the season series. Starting in all four wins against the rival Rangers, Rick DiPietro has amassed a goals-against average of 2.51 with a .926 save percentage.
After a minor setback against St. Louis, the Islanders picked up where they left off by continuing their winning ways against Washington on Saturday. Five different Islanders scored to help earn a 6-2 victory over the injury-depleted Capitals.
Miroslav Satan tallied two goals, while Ryan Smyth earned his first goal as an Islander with a tally late in the third period. Also scoring for the Islanders was Mike Sillinger, Chris Simon and Marc-Andre Bergeron, who also added two assists to earn First Star of the Game honors. In five games with the Islanders, Bergeron has recorded two goals and five assists. DiPietro picked up his 29th win and is now one shy of 30 -- his career-high -- which he set last season.
What has been noticeably improved since the arrival of Bergeron and Smyth, who has one goal and an assist in two games with the Islanders, is the power play. Since Bergeron became an Islander, they've have converted in five of six games, and gone 7 for 20 on the man-advantage, including three power play tallies in Saturday's game. The last time the Islanders scored three power play goals in a game was on December 15th of this season against Pittsburgh.
Since the Islanders last took on the Rangers, the Blueshirts have played sub-.500 hockey and unlike the Islanders who rest in seventh place, are looking up at the playoff pack. With 69 points, the Rangers are tied for 11th with Boston, six points behind the Islanders and four behind eighth-place Carolina.
The Rangers received a serious blow when their leading goal scorer, Brendan Shanahan, was knocked out indefinitely with a concussion by an accidental collision with Philadelphia's Mike Knuble on February 18th. Martin Straka has also missed the last three games due to an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
One player the Rangers acquired since their last meeting is tough guy Sean Avery from the Los Angeles Kings. Back in October, Avery was a thorn in the Islanders' side, especially in front of the net. Look for things to heat up with Avery crashing the net hard.
On Saturday, the Rangers were less than three minutes away from losing their second game in a row, when Avery evened the score at two against the St. Louis Blues. The Rangers went on to win in the shootout as Stephen Valiquette earned his first victory of the season in his second start.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR VERSUS ON LONG ISLAND
CAREER NHL MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
- Viktor Kozlov is a goal away from tying his career-high of 22.
- Brendan Witt is a point away from 100.
- Rick DiPietro is three games from 200 and one win shy of tying his career-high of 30.
- Marc-Andre Bergeron is five points away from 100.
THE SMYTH FILE
- Is tied with teammate Jason Blake for 14th in the NHL w/ 32 goals...Tied for seventh in the NHL w/ 14 power play goals...Is ninth in the NHL w/ a 19.0 shooting percentage.
- Represented the Oilers at the All-Star Game in Dallas last month.
- Won a Gold Medal with Canada at 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
- In his international career, has represented Canada at seven World Championships, at the 2005 World
Cup of Hockey and also at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
- Was named to the WHL's 1994-95 East Second All-Star Team.
- Originally drafted by Edmonton in the first round, sixth overall, in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
ISLANDERS ALSO ACQUIRE RICHARD ZEDNIK FROM WASHINGTON
Last Monday afternoon, the Islanders acquired wing Richard Zednik from the Washington Capitals for a second round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Zednik's best season was in 2002-03, when he had 31 goals and 19 assists for 50 points in 80 games. He is in his eleventh NHL season.
BLAKE SCORES CAREER-HIGH, AGAIN
For the second straight season, Jason Blake set a new career-high in goals scored tallying his 29th on February 24 versus Montreal. He has since upped that total and now has 32 goals on the season. His previous career-high was 28, set last season in 2005-06. That year, he recorded the 28 goals scored over the course of 76 games in 2005-06. His 32 this season have been scored in 65 games.
Islanders 75 points, 3rd place Atlantic Division
Rangers - 69 points, 4th place, Atlantic Division
Islanders Jason Blake & Ryan Smyth, 32 goals; Mike Sillinger, 28 assists; Blake, 58 points; Brendan Witt, 113 PIM.
Rangers Brendan Shanahan, 28 goals; Jaromir Jagr, 53 assists, 77 points; Sean Avery, 141 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 16.9 percent. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent.
Rangers - Power play: 19.7 percent. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent.
Islanders Rick DiPietro (29-18-6, 2.66 GAA, .915 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-5-3, 2.90, .911).
Rangers Henrik Lundqvist (26-20-5, 2.54, .909); Stephen Valiquette (1-1-0, 2.84, .886).
January 9, 2007 at Madison Square Garden: 5-3 Islanders win
Rangers 14-14-5 at home
Islanders 15-13-4 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
44 Freddy Meyer
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
12 Chris Simon
18 Mike Sillinger
20 Richard Zednik
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
30 Henrik Lundqvist
40 Stephen Valiquette
3 Michal Rozsival
8 Marek Malik
22 Thomas Pock
23 Karel Rachunek
27 Paul Mara
46 Dan Girardi
5 Matt Cullen
15 Brad Isbister
16 Sean Avery
19 Blair Betts
25 Petr Prucha
28 Colton Orr
38 Jarkko Immonen
41 Jed Ortmeyer
44 Ryan Hollweg
68 Jaromir Jagr
81 Marcel Hossa
82 Martin Straka
92 Michael Nylander