New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
Islanders face cross-town rivals for second time this season
Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 12:00 AM / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
|Team Record: 4-7-3
Last Game: 4-1 L vs. VAN
Season Series: 1-0-0 of 6
|Team Record: 9-3-3
Last Game: 5-1 W vs. CAR
Season Series: 0-1-0 of 6
Niederreiter is set to return to the Islanders lineup Tuesday against the Rangers. After being taken off injured reserve Nov. 1, the Islanders rookie forward was assigned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for a two-week conditioning stint where he posted three goals in his last three games.
“I would say the first three or four games I played average,” Niederreiter said. “It was harder to get into it, but the last few games I got better and stronger. I think I still have a lot more to give. It’s always hard to come back after injury and it was my first one so I didn’t really know what to expect and how it was going to be, but now I feel more confident and I’m very excited to come back.”
Niederreiter played for the Sound Tigers Sunday night in Hershey and recorded his third goal in as many games off a penalty shot, faking left before switching right and backhanding the puck high glove side for the goal.
“The American League is a great league,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re bigger and stronger men than he would play against in Junior, so he had a small taste of that before he got hurt, but confidence can go a long way. That he went down there and got pucks to the net, finished his checks and did a lot of the little things will only help his confidence.”
Sitting out for a month isn’t easy so playing in six games for the Sound Tigers was the perfect opportunity for Niederreiter to used to the pace of the game again.
“I feel more comfortable now then I was before,” Niederreiter said.
Talking about Niederreiter’s nine-game stint last season, Capuano said, “(Nino) really knew what he had to do to make the National Hockey League and be an impact player. He trained extremely hard this summer and unfortunately, during our camp this year, he had that injury. Before that, he was right on track to be a player that was going to help our hockey team.”
Capuano added, “The fact that he was able to go down there and play as much hockey as he played, and this weekend, playing three games in three nights, is only going to prepare him more for when he gets in the lineup.”
Prior to the start of the season, Rangers personnel were trying to figure out where Gaborik fit into the lineup. It was first thought that he’d play with Brad Richards, but as the Rangers started to improve their record – winning their last six games – the Slovak native has been paired with Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan.
Known as the GAS line, Gaborik has been a major contributor for the Rangers, helping to lead the club to six straight wins and a 9-3-3 record on the season. Though his four-game point streak (4 goals, 3 assists) was put to an end in the Rangers 5-1 win over Carolina on Friday night, he’s still on top of the Rangers in scoring. Gaborik leads the Rangers with 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points in just as many games.
With Marc Staal still suffering from post-concussion headaches, Girardi has really stepped up his defensive game. With an average of 27:46 per game, the defenseman leads all Rangers in time-on-ice by more than 2:30 and still manages to have the team’s third-best +/- rating with a +7. Additionally, with eight points (3 goals, 5 assists), he leads all Rangers defensemen in scoring.
Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella told the media: "He's turned into an All-Star player. He does everything. That's the simplest way to put it. He does everything there is for us, and he's the most underrated defenseman in the league. You see him on the bench always talking with (Ryan McDonagh). He's a real settling influence, and he plays through injuries (no one) knows about all the time. He wants to make a difference."
Finding the will to win is what the Islanders need right now. In the last 10 games, the Islanders are 1-6-3 and in last place in the Eastern Conference at 4-7-3 with 11 points this season. When it comes to facing the Rangers, who have won their last six contests and are second in the Atlantic Division (fourth in the Conference), Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said he just wants to start with a clean slate.
“The frustrating part of (how we’re playing), is when we do play the hockey we want to play, we can get extended zone time and we can dominate teams,” Capuano said. “But for me, it’s just making sure we look towards the future. The past is the past. We can’t worry about what’s happened up to this point. We just have to move forward.”
Capuano’s still worried about generating offense and having more lines contribute.
“There’s no question that when you just look at the goals we’ve gotten and the production that we’ve gotten that it has come from that (John Tavares) line," Capuano said. "But at the same time, when other guys are playing at the potential they can play at, they can help us score some goals. We are hoping that can happen here soon.”
Urging the defensemen to get more involved with the play will only help the Islanders situation. Fifteen games into the season, Mark Streit (1 goal, 9 assists) and Steve Staios (3 assists) are the only defensemen with more than a point. Though they didn’t generate any goals against Vancouver, they began to activate a little bit more, jumping up into the play.
According to Capuano, this is the kind of play the Islanders will need to get more scoring opportunities in the future.
“Just look at Vancouver (Sunday) night,” Capuano said. “They had four goals and the defense was in on every goal. I’m not saying that we have to take too many chances to give ourselves odd man rushes, but at the same time, we just have to make sure that guys feel comfortable when the opportunity is there, that they can go. It was good to see our defense get involved in the offense the other night. It creates a lot more for us, no question.”
The New York Rangers are on the verge of matching their longest winning streak in more than two years. To do so, they'll have to avoid a third consecutive road defeat against their archrivals.
The Rangers go for their seventh victory in a row when they face the reeling New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum for the second time this season Tuesday night.
The Rangers (9-3-3) have surged toward the top of the Eastern Conference with their longest run since a seven-game win streak Oct. 3-17, 2009. New York has allowed nine goals during the stretch.
Defenseman Dan Girardi netted a power-play goal to break a tie midway through the third period and Brandon Dubinsky scored 9 seconds later as the Rangers beat Carolina 5-1 on Friday.
Five New York players had a goal.
"Obviously, there is confidence that comes with a winning streak," right wing Ryan Callahan said. "We just have to keep the pucks crashing the net and good things will happen."
That, however, hasn't been the case for the Rangers in the last two meetings with the Islanders - both on the road. The Islanders outscored them 10-4 in taking both games, the most recent a 4-2 win Oct. 15.
John Tavares recorded a hat trick, scoring the only two goals of the third period, and Evgeni Nabokov outplayed Henrik Lundqvist with a 29-save performance.(Continue Reading)
Islanders center John Tavares scored two power play goals and an empty net goal to record a hat trick when the Islanders and Rangers met for the first time this season, Oct. 15. Tavares also assisted on Matt Moulson’s goal, which gave the Isles the early lead, paving the way for Tavares’ second consecutive four-point night. Marian Gaborik and Brandon Prust scored for the Rangers and Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves for his first Islanders win.
|- Mark Katic - Shoulder (9/24 vs. NJ) - 14 games missed (Out indefinitely)
- Rhett Rakhshani - Concussion (9/27 at CGY) - 14 games missed (Out indefinitely)
IslandersPower Play %: 17.8%
Penalty Kill %: 79.6%
Home Record: 4-3-1
Road Record: 0-4-2
Goals For: 29
Goals Against: 43
RangersPower Play %: 14.3%
Penalty Kill %: 88.3%
Home Record: 5-1-1
Road Record: 4-2-2
Goals For: 51
Goals Against: 50
(Answer from 11/13: Felix Potvin. Potvin was an Islanders player for a brief period, playing 33 just games over two seasons before he was traded to Vancouver for Kevin Weekes, Bill Muckalt and Dave Scatchard.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Nino Niederreiter is making his season debut, Kyle Okposo and Mark Eaton are the healthy scratches. Evgeni Nabokov gets the start, Al Montoya will back up.
Rangers (Expected) LineupsForwards: Stepan-Anisimov-Gaborik, Boyle-Richards-Callahan, Fedontenko-Dubinsky-Prust, Avery-Christensen-Deveaux
Defensemen: McDonagh-Girardi, Del Zotto-Sauer, Woywitka-Eminger
Goaltenders: Lundqvist, Biron
Expected Scratches: Stralman
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was very profound when talking about the message he hopes to bestow upon his team: "Belief and trust and integrity in one another goes a long way. We can’t lose that focus and that attention to detail in what we set out to do at the start of the year. We’re still early in the year and I am not in panic mode by any means, but at the same time, we have to collectively play better as a team.”
He continued, “Right now, we are a team that if we make a mistake the puck is in the back of our net and we seem to get down. Life’s about adversity and you are going to face adversity throughout your life and you’re going to face adversity through a hockey game. So it’s how you handle that and making sure that you can continue to have that positive energy and bring it shift after shift."
Cory Wright contributed to this report