Rangers-Islanders Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 06, 2013
While the New York Rangers are thrilled that Rick Nash is providing a long-awaited spark, their thoughts are likely more focused on Marc Staal. With Staal trying to recover from a scary injury, the Rangers will search for a season-high fourth straight victory Thursday night when they visit the New York Islanders, who are also seeking their longest win streak in 2012-13. Nash scored two third-period goals in Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Philadelphia, but that was tempered by the loss of Staal. The defenseman got hit in the right eye by a deflected puck with 14:15 remaining before skating off with some help. "You never want to see that. It's a tough play. It's a bang-bang play. We're hoping he's okay," captain Ryan Callahan said. Staal's brother, Carolina captain Eric Staal, told the league's official website Wednesday that doctors were waiting for the swelling to go down before determining the extent of the injury. As insurance, the Rangers (11-8-2) claimed 38-year-old Roman Hamrlik off waivers. The former No. 1 overall draft pick and NHL's active leader with 1,383 games was cut by Washington on Tuesday after appearing in only four contests. The status of veteran center Brad Richards is also unknown due to an upper-body injury and Nash will try to help his short-handed team by adding to his recent scoring binge, which has come after a four-game absence with an undisclosed injury. Nash is riding a seven-game point streak and has four of his team high-tying seven goals during the three straight wins. The winger has scored all of his goals during the third period, and New York is 7-0-1 in the last eight games he's played. "He's scoring big goals. (Shots are) going in for him. He's been pretty important since he's come back. He's really ignited us," coach John Tortorella said. Nash has one assist in two games against the Islanders (10-11-2) this season. Rookie center J.T. Miller scored his only two NHL goals in a 4-1 home victory Feb. 7, and the Rangers couldn't build on an early two-goal lead in another matchup at Madison Square Garden a week later, falling 4-3 in a shootout. The Islanders enter having earned back-to-back wins on their season-high seven-game homestand after dropping the first three. They scored three times in the third period to top Montreal 6-3 on Tuesday. Radek Martinek's tiebreaking goal was his first since Oct. 12, 2011, and with his help, the Islanders will try to record their first three-game win streak since March 25-29. "Having the Rangers here will be intense," Martinek said. "All we can do is continue playing the way we have these past two here at home. It's really a simple game. You have to play hard every night." Marian Gaborik has scored a goal in six straight games against the Islanders and has 21 goals and 13 assists in his past 23 matchups. The 21 goals are tied for his most versus any opponent over his career. John Tavares has a goal in his last three games against the Rangers, and his 21 points in 19 matchups (eight goals, 13 assists) are his most versus any team. The Rangers, 2-4-1 on the road, are seeking their first four-game win streak since March 24-30. They're 1-2-1 in their last four visits to the Islanders but 5-0-2 in the last seven overall meetings.
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