New York Islanders @ New York Rangers
The Isles look to extend two-game win streak with victory over their cross-town rival
Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Cory Wright
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Mark Eaton was activated off injured reserve and will return to the lineup as Dylan Reese was returned to the Sound Tigers. Evgeni Nabokov gets the start, Anders Nilsson backs up.
Rangers (Expected) LineupsForwards: Dubinsky-Richards-Callahan, Anisimov-Stepan-Gaborik, Mitchell-Boyle-Hagelin, Fedontenko-Rupp-Prust
Defensemen: McDonagh-Girardi, Del Zotto-Stralman, Erixon-Bickel
Goaltenders: Lundqvist, Biron
Expected scratches: Woywitka, Avery, Christensen
|Team Record: 11-14-6
Last Game: 3-2 SOW @ WPG
Season Series: 1-1-0 of 6
|Team Record: 19-8-4
Last Game: 4-1 W @ NJD
Season Series: 1-1-0 of 6
The league’s reigning fastest skater netted his 10th goal of the season against the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night. Grabner used his hockey sense over his speed Tuesday, putting himself in the right spot to tap in rebound of a Travis Hamonic point shot.
Grabner hasn’t recorded a point in the Islanders two previous games against the Rangers, but with two goals in his last three games (against Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg) it could be his time to break out at MSG.
| Marian Gaborik
The Rangers leader without a letter, Gaborik is first on the team in goals (19) and points (30) through 31 games. He is riding a two-game point streak - four goals and an assist in that span - including the game-winner Tuesday night against New Jersey.
The Czech sniper also has the most shots (111), as well as the best shooting percentage (17.1). Gaborik was held off the score sheet Nov. 15, the last time the Rangers and Isles met, but picked up a goal during the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 15.
The Islanders are coming off consecutive shootout wins over Minnesota and Winnipeg, two intense atmospheres with sold-out buildings. They aim to continue their win streak against a Rangers team that is looking to tie Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Don’t let the gap in the standings fool you, the first two installments of the Battle of New York were tight, competitive, physical games.
“[They’re a] hard-working team. They can score some goals, their top six are definitely guys who can put the puck in the net,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We’ve talked about being patient and we might have to win games 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. It’s not going to be a 7-6 game with our team on a lot of nights.”
Capuano said there is a good chance that Evgeni Nabokov will start against the Rangers, after relieving the injured Al Montoya and backstopping the Isles to a win in Winnipeg. It was Nabokov’s first game action since Nov. 17, but looked sharp despite coming in cold off the bench late in the second period.
“It’s one of those times I guess, it’s good that you don’t have time to react, you don’t have the time to think,” Nabokov said. “You just go in and try to help the team to win. I always try to simplify my game. I do it as simple as possible until I get in a groove and feel good.”
Nabokov played both games against the Rangers at the Coliseum, but tonight will be his first taste of the Isles-Rangers rivalry at the Garden. With 10 years of NHL experience under his belt, the veteran said he won’t be fazed by the raucous crowd.
“To me it’s just a great atmosphere,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who they are cheering for, how they’re cheering. It’s the loudness, the excitement, so that’s what I love.”
The New York Rangers haven't been tested much during a four-game home winning streak over the New York Islanders.
That may change Thursday night when the longtime bitter Atlantic Division rivals meet at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season.
The Rangers and Islanders have already split two games at Nassau Coliseum, with each club totaling six goals. The Rangers have struggled on special teams in those matchups, failing to score on eight power-play chances while the Isles have gone 3 for 13 with the man advantage.
The results have been far different for the Rangers (19-8-4) during recent meetings in Manhattan. John Tortorella's club has a 20-5 scoring edge while going 8 for 20 on the power play over the last four matchups at MSG.
They should expect a tougher game this time considering the Islanders (11-14-6) have shown vast improvement on the road, going 5-1-1 in the last seven after an 0-5-2 start. (Continue Reading)
The last time these teams met, on Nov. 15, the Rangers skated to a 4-2 win over the Isles at Nassau Coliseum. Brad Richards broke a tie at two with just under five minutes to play in the third period and Ryan Callahan iced it with an empty-netter. The Isles trailed the Rangers twice in the game, but Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson evened the score on two separate occasions. The tilt was a physical one, totaling 53 combined hits, 42 combined penalty minutes and two fights.
IslandersPower Play %: 15.9%
Penalty Kill %: 81.0%
Home Record: 6-8-3
Road Record: 5-6-3
Goals For: 72
Goals Against: 99
RangersPower Play %: 16.4%
Penalty Kill %: 86.7%
Home Record: 8-3-2
Road Record: 11-5-2
Goals For: 91
Goals Against: 68
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano on how to beat Henrik Lundqvist: "He’s a tremendous goalie and he’s big. When I say big, I mean his angles. He competes hard. But when you talk about beating good goaltenders like that, it’s just what it is. If you watched the game last night, you saw [New Jersey Devils forward Travis] Zajac’s goal, it was a second and third opportunity off a point shot. That’s how you are going to beat him, you are going to have to get around that paint, around those greasy areas."