Last 10 – N.Y. Islanders 3-7-0; N.Y. Rangers 5-3-2
Season series – This is the fourth meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals -- and the third in 11 days. The Rangers suffered a 2-1 loss at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 16, but rebounded the following night with a 5-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles won 3-1 at home in the first meeting on Oct 28.
Big story – The Rangers seemed to have found their game, winning four straight since that loss to the Islanders at the Garden. On the flip side, the Islanders lost their next three games before beating the Leafs 3-1 at home on Wednesday before the holiday break.
Islanders – Following that win against the Rangers on Dec. 16, the Isles returned home to start a four-game homestand. It was an opportunity to build some momentum on Long Island. They salvaged the homestand by beating the Leafs on Wednesday, but the 1-3-0 mark left a bad taste in the players’ mouths.
"This was our chance to stockpile some points, but we've let them fall away," defenseman Andy Sutton said. "You can't get them back."
Rangers – It’s amazing what a change in attitude can do for a struggling team.
The Rangers did some soul-searching after dropping eight of nine and decided to pick up the aggression and passion. That has led to four straight wins – three of which came on the road -- and a renewed sense of confidence.
“We are coming into this with confidence obviously with three big wins on the road,” Ryan Callahan said after the Rangers earned a 4-1 home win against the Panthers on Wednesday. “We weren’t happy what we showed the last time we were here (the 2-1 loss to the Isles). We came in wanting to prove something and with the confidence from three road wins.”
Who's hot – Islanders right wing Trent Hunter has goals in consecutive games. Rangers captain Chris Drury has 3 goals and an assist in his past four games.
Injury report – For the Islanders, forward Tim Jackman (hip) is close to returning. Captain Doug Weight (upper body) is skating again but there's no date set for his return. Goaltender Rick DiPietro (knee, hip surgeries) is practicing with the team but not expected back any time soon. The Rangers are healthy.
Stat pack – The Islanders’ power play is just 1-for-27 in the last six games. … Meanwhile, the Rangers are 7-for-26 with the extra man over their last seven games, including 3-for-5 last Thursday in their 5-2 win on Long Island. … Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky is plus-4 in six games since returning from injury and hasn’t been a minus-players in any of those games. … John Tavares’ goal Wednesday against the Maple Leafs snapped the rookie’s five-game string without a point.
Puck drop -- “You are not going to get where you want to be if you don’t establish yourself at home. We have quite a few home games coming up here, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction.” – Rangers coach John Tortorella, after his team improved to 8-9-1 at home with a win against Florida on Wednesday.