The New York Islanders begin the second half of their schedule by facing off against the arch rival New York Rangers. The Rangers hold the series lead against the Islanders holding a record of 123 wins, 126 losses, and 19 ties. Tonight’s contest is the first of a home-and-home against the Rangers with Saturday’s game being the last time the two clubs meet this season – they can’t quite tie up the series this year, but it’s a prime chance to narrow the gap.
The Islanders were hoping to enter the second half of the season in a playoff position, but they saw their six game winning streak snapped by the Carolina Hurricanes and every other game bounced the wrong way. As a result, they’re just out of a spot albeit with higher points percentages and more games in hand than a few of the teams they’re chasing. The Columbus Blue Jackets play the Nashville Predators tonight and will do so without Sergei Bobrovsky, so if the Islanders can take care of the Rangers (who have lost five straight), they’ll jump back in. Should they win with the Blue Jackets pulling off the upset, they can still jump to the second wild card spot if the Montreal Canadiens lose on the road to the St. Louis Blues or the Boston Bruins falter to the Washington Capitals at home or gain the top wild card spot if both happen.
Thomas Greiss allowed four goals (with two of them being scored by his own team) and will return to the bench for Robin Lehner. Lehner now has the lead in dSV for the first time this season at 1.37 percent to Greiss’ 1.33. The two are both well above average starters so far this season and the Islanders need them to continue that if they want to make it to the postseason.
No lineup changes will be made tonight. There were rumours that Thomas Hickey might be able to go, but he’s still out for at least another game meaning he won’t be there to score his obligatory goal against Henrik Lundqvist. It will be interesting to see who will come out of the lineup once he does get healthy. Devon Toews has been the team’s top possession defensemen since he got to the island, but Joshua Ho-Sang was the teams top possession forward and that didn’t stop them from shuffling him back to Bridgeport. Adam Pelech has had surprisingly good possession stats, but his tendency to score on his own team is well documented and he generally infuriates fans. Nick Leddy has been nothing short of terrible and it it’s no longer a case where he’s just slumping – he could drastically use a change of scenery, but taking him out of the lineup doesn’t exactly help his value.
Despite being the New York City/New Jersey area’s top team, the Islanders play at the same time as the New Jersey Devils and there’s already Rangers coverage on MSG, so they are being relegated to MSG+2 for the night. Our apologies in advance to those who have to listen to Sam Rosen blindly call center ice dump-ins great saves by Lundqvist. For those that can get MSG+2, the channel finder is attached below.
Game time is at 7:00 P.M. E.S.T.