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GAME: New York Islanders (13-13-2-1) at New York Rangers (11-12-5-2).TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.
Any game between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers is hotly contested.
Thursday's meeting at Madison Square Garden has the potential to be an especially entertaining affair.
The resurgent Islanders will look to continue their best stretch of the season when they face their biggest rivals for the second time this season.
In the first meeting between these teams at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 4, Islanders captain Michael Peca was ejected for kneeing Rangers center Jamie Lundmark in the second period. The Rangers scored twice on the ensuing power play and Mike Dunham made 37 saves in a 4-2 victory that sent the Islanders to their seventh straight loss.
Several of the Rangers and coach and general manager Glen Sather weren't happy with Peca's hit, which sidelined Lundmark for eight weeks.
"What Peca did to Lundmark is not called for," Sather said at the time. "There's a kid who just started to make his career in the NHL, and Peca knees and puts him out."
Peca believed his hit was legal.
"I know on the play I didn't stick my leg out," Peca said. "He was planted on his skates. I just tried to finish my check."
Whether the hit was legal or not, the Islanders have been a much better team since, going 4-0-0-1, with the only blemish in that span a 1-0 overtime loss at New Jersey.
The Islanders paid the Devils back for that loss with a 5-4 victory Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.
"We've had a good start to December, and we have to sustain it," Peca said.
To continue their strong play, the Islanders will have to find a way to beat Rangers goalie Mike Dunham. In five games against the Islanders since joining the Rangers, Dunham is 3-0-2 while stopping 149 of 154 shots.
Since their win on Long Island, the Rangers have lost three of four, including a 3-1 defeat at Toronto on Saturday.
Dunham has lost his last three starts and his win over the Islanders is his only victory in the last nine games (1-6-2).
The road team has fared well in this series of late.
The Rangers are 10-2-2 in their last 14 visits to Long Island while the Islanders are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games at Madison Square Garden.