Tonight’s meeting between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders is the first of the season, but the latest in a long-time rivalry. Both teams enter tonight with similar records, the Rangers 4-5 after a Tuesday loss to the New Jersey Devils and the Islanders a surprising 4-4-1 coming off a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. The Rangers have failed to live up to expectations so far this season, and a big win over their cross-town rival would be a big step forward.
If the Rangers want to beat the Islanders tonight, they will need to do something they haven’t been able to do very easily this season: score goals. The team ranks 25th in the league in goals per game, and has a league-worst power play that has converted just three of 35 chances.
The Rangers’ top performers have been Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, which is little surprise. Secondary scoring, especially from youngsters Michael Del Zotto, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan, is vital to the team’s success moving forward.
Rookie J.T. Miller will get another chance to show the team what he can do before they make the decision on keeping him in the NHL next week. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has only has one bad game this season (a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh), allowing three goals or fewer in every other game. The Rangers face an uphill battle to improve their power play tonight, as they face an Islanders team that has the league’s fourth-best penalty kill.
The Islanders have featured a potent offense this season, and the Rangers need to try and shut down the top line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares and Brad Boyes if they hope to stay in the game. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has given up four, three and four goals in New York’s past three games, so the Rangers would be wise to try and test him early and often. When these two teams meet, there is rarely a dull moment and don’t expect tonight’s match-up to be any different.