Islanders Look to End Road Trip With Rivalry Win

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skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 14, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Rangers 3-1.

New York Islanders (35-20-7) @ New York Rangers (38-21-6): Game 63 of 82

When: Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Time: 5:00 PM EST
TV: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)
Radio: WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM and WRCN 103.9 FM (Chris King, Greg Picker)


The Islanders end their road trip in blockbuster fashion tonight, taking on their crosstown rival Rangers in the famed Madison Square Garden. This is the first of two times the Isles will play in MSG this season; the two teams will face off in the same setting a month from tomorrow. 

Tonight’s game may have major ramifications on the Metropolitan Division standings moving forward. As it stands, the Rangers’ 82 points trumps their rival’s 77; however, the Isles have played three fewer games. A win tonight creates just a three point separation, and with three games in hand, the Islanders would look primed to take that second position in the Metropolitan Division, and ultimately have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blue and Orange have been looking to their goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss to get it done on this road trip, and the tandem has not disappointed. The two have combined for a 1.67 GAA in the team’s last six games, and have looked very impressive this past week. The play of Thomas Greiss has perhaps been the biggest surprise of the season for the Islanders, as his .930 SV% is the league’s best. Although his play has been brilliant,  Halak is expected to get the nod tonight. He has more experience against the Rangers, and has played well against them in his time with the Isles. In fact, he has never lost to the Blueshirts during his Islanders’ tenure. But with that said, the backup has proven his worth on this team, and has solidified the best goaltending duo the Islanders have had since, well…

In front of the goaltenders, the Isles face a bit of an injury-related dilemma. Defenseman Calvin deHaan is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and will be missing tonight’s contest. The 24-year-old defenseman had just been activated off the IR at the start of the month, but his latest injury does not appear to be nearly as serious as the one that kept him out for two weeks. Number 44 has been one of the team’s more reliable defenseman this season prior to his injury, rarely missing games and always putting in a commendable effort while on the ice.

Mikhail Grabovski is still on IR, and has been out the entire road trip. The Isles’ forward had been playing pretty well leading up to his injury, with 25 points in 57 games. He may not be scoring as much as the Islanders would have likedwhen they signed him in July of 2014, but his overall solid play has been a welcome addition for his team. His current fill-in, trade deadline acquisition Shane Prince, scored his first goal as an Islander Thursday in Winnipeg, and looks to keep up the same intensity he had in his last game.

As for the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist is still injured (neck spasms), so Antti Raanta will get the start in net tonight. He has been a reliable backup for his team this season, with a respectable .915 SV% in 16 games played. Raanta is one a few good backups the Rangers have collected in the years under Lundqvist’s reign, and like Thomas Greiss, has helped establish one of the stronger goaltending duos in the NHL.

Tonight’s game should be one of the most exciting of the year across the league, as it features two of the biggest rivals in fierce, presumably spirited competition for division seeding. It will be a hard fought effort on both sides, and it looks as if one small play will be the deciding factor in determining the victor.

Players To Watch

Islanders– Cal Clutterbuck – The fourth line winger has always been a thorn in the side of opponents, particularly against the Rangers. He will be physical, annoying, and potentially productive on the scoresheet. He scored his first goal as an Islander in this rivalry game in October of 2013, and could be a major factor in tonight’s game as well.

Rangers– Eric Staal – The newly-acquired center has been getting more comfortable with his new teammates, and is extremely excited to take part in of the league’s best rivalries. He is a very competent scorer, and given the stage, he is sure to make an impact on the ice tonight.

Games Notes

  • The Islanders have been boasting the best penalty kill in the league, with an 86.7% success rate. They have done a complete turnaround since last year, which really needs no explanation.
  • Conversely, the Rangers’ 77.3 PK% is better than only three teams in the league. They have struggled killing penalties this season, which is odd for a strong defensive team.
  • The Islanders have won the first two meetings against the Rangers this season, limiting their opponent to just one goal in both games.
  • Jack Capuano recently won his 200th career NHL game, and now only trails Al Arbour for most wins for the Isles.
  • Both the Isles and the Rangers have won 7 of their last 10 games, and have yet to lose in the month of March.

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