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Rangers aiming to win first game at Islanders’ temporary home

Practice — we’d define it as a “hard work” practice, but that would be redundant — ended, and David Quinn called his team to center ice.

“How many games have you won at Barclays Center?” the coach asked the Rangers players gathered around him.

Mats Zuccarello, good to go after missing the past three games with a groin issue, piped up and added some levity to the moment.

“Five,” said the alternate captain.

That is five too many, as you and he know only too well. For the fact is, the Blueshirts have never won a game at the Islanders’ temporary housing facility, going 0-5-1 overall while losing the past five in regulation entering Thursday’s match at Barclays.

“I give them credit. They’ve been able to raise their level against us,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “I have no idea if they put a higher priority on these games than we do, I’m not in their room, but personally, I love to play in games that have a little extra to them.

“These games, games against Philly or Pittsburgh, where there’s a history and a rivalry, they’re a lot of fun.”

The Rangers are not only 0-5-1 in Brooklyn the past three seasons, they also are a grotesque 1-9-2 in the rivalry since the start of 2015-16, the only victory coming in the 2016-17 season opener at the Garden.

Hilarious.

In 2003-04, the Rangers missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season while the Islanders went to the postseason for the third straight year. The Blueshirts swept the season series, 6-0. For once, these games mattered more to them. That marked the exception to the rule under which the Islanders and Devils — forever the little brothers in the market regardless of standings or Stanley Cups — always have placed a higher priority on these internecine matchups.

This will be Quinn’s first taste of the Battle of New York, but he comes straight outta BU-BC and the Battle of Comm. Ave., so he knows from matchups such as these.

“There’s a little more passion, a little more pace, a little more snarl in these rivalry games,” said Quinn, who went 1-6-1 (a tie) in his first eight games behind the Boston University bench against Boston College, but 5-2 in the final seven. “I think the team that isn’t having the [best] year probably puts a little more into it, but the day of the game, you can’t help but feel the moment.”

The Rangers and Islanders are both exceeding expectations through the first six weeks. The Blueshirts (9-7-2) are on a 6-0-1 roll. The Islanders (9-6-2) are 6-2-1 in their last nine. If the season ended today, they would match up in the first round of the playoffs. (The season doesn’t end today.)

“I think we’re in similar places,” the Rangers’ Kevin Hayes said. “We were both kind of expected to be at the bottom of the pack and we’ve both played well enough so far to create some optimism. We’ve kind of used the outside expectations as motivation within our room and it’s probably the same for them.

“In terms of personnel, we’re both pretty new teams, we’re both young, so this is kind of like a new rivalry.”

The Islanders’ physical dominance of this series has gotten old for the Rangers. They have been pounded and hounded relentlessly by their hungrier opponents, routinely forechecked into submission.

“We can play with an edge, too,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It’s not going to be going hit for hit, but being tough to play against is another area we’re really good at. Against a team that comes hard and forechecks hard, we’re going to have to be quick with our decisions and make sure we’re getting pucks out of our zone.”

Quinn focused on breakouts and D-zone coverage throughout practice. The Rangers have won games despite spending an increasing amount of time in their own end. Coverage for the most part has remained stable, but the Blueshirts need to clear the zone with more coherence much more of the time.

“We have to do a better job of that,” the coach said. “We’re defending too much.”

The Rangers are 2-0 in The Bronx, having defeated both the Devils and Islanders at Yankee Stadium in 2013-14, and 1-0 in Queens following their Jan. 1, 2018 Winter Classic victory over the Sabres. Thursday, for the seventh time, they seek to get on the board in Brooklyn.

“Our goal,” Lundqvist said when asked how good it would feel to win one there, “is to go out there and win and turn the page. How’s that?”

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