Exactly one month ago, when the Rangers and Islanders met for the first time this season at the Nassau Coliseum, the Blueshirts were just returning to the U.S. after their lengthy European road trip that opened the season. New York (City) ended up losing that game by a score of 4-2 as they did not capitalize on prime opportunities to put the puck in the net. This time around, however, they are a new beast and are winners of six straight games going into tonight's contest. How sweet it would be to get number seven against the rival Isles, while also paying them back for their last "date".
Meanwhile, the Islanders have struggled mightily, winning just one game since defeating the Rangers on October 15. They currently find themselves dead last in the Eastern Conference and have went 1-6-3 in their last ten games. Like they did last year, the Isles are digging themselves an early grave that will only get worse if they cannot find a way to turn their game around soon.
Among many problems that they've encountered, the Islanders have struggled scoring goals, and at the same time haven't gotten the effort from their blue-line that is needed to win hockey games. That combination will sink you quick, especially when you have a circus with three ring leaders in net.
At least for tonight, though, it will be Evgeny Nabakov in goal for the orange and blue, as he got the win over the Rangers last month.
As for the Rangers, their lineup will remain the same as it was in their last win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. That is with exception to the fact that the bottom three lines have been jumbled around by head coach John Tortorella.
After a gleaming performance against the 'Canes, Sean Avery has been moved up to play with Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko tonight. This is his chance to prove he can be a consistent difference-maker in the lineup, and maybe begin to work his way towards solidifying a spot on the roster. And what better opponent than the Isles to do that against?
The excitement aside, the Rangers just need to focus on playing their game tonight. They cannot afford to let the rivalry get the best of them, because that's how they will end up finding themselves in a hole. If they manage to do everything they have in their past two or three outings, which includes forechecking and backchecking to the maximum, they should be in good shape. This is a game they should walk away with two points after.
Henrik Lundqvist will be starting in goal.
New York Rangers Lineup