In less than an hour, the puck will drop on another installment of a classic rivalry. That’s always been the case whenever the Rangers and Islanders get together. A unique blood rivalry between New York teams that dates back to 1972 when the Islanders entered the league, Rangers and Islanders is as good as it gets in hockey. At least in this area.
This season, the two teams will meet four times. In fact, tonight’s match at Barclays Center in Brooklyn is basically a home-and-home series over the span of six days. The Isles will pay a visit to MSG next Wednesday on Turkey Eve. Interestingly, the schedule makers did a cool thing by scheduling the remaining two games as a classic home-and-home series in early January. Here is the breakdown:
11/15 NYR @ NYI 7 PM
11/21 NYR vs NYI 7 PM
1/10 NYR vs NYI 7 PM
1/12 NYR @ NYI 1 PM
In a odd twist, the Rangers will be done with the Islanders before they play the Devils for the first time in late January. I’ve never seen that before. It’s too bad these old school rivals don’t face each other more during the season. I feel they should play at least six times. But the unbalanced schedule doesn’t allow for it. Why not minimize the other games against the other Eastern divisions to two? One at home and one on the road. Just a suggestion.
As for recent history, it hasn’t been kind to the Blueshirts. In ’17-18, they didn’t win one game last season going 0-3-1 against their kryptonite. The Islanders outscored them 16-6. Even worse, the Rangers have yet to win a game at Barclays Center in three years, bringing an 0-5-1 record into tonight. In fact, they have only won once since 2016-17 taking the home opener. The Isles own the Rangers, who are 1-9-2 over that span. Pretty crazy yet somehow typical and predictable.
The Islanders take these games seriously. It’s like their Stanley Cup. Or has been lately. With Barry Trotz in charge and Lou Lamoriello running it, these are different times. They bring a 9-6-2 record into the game with their 20 points good for second place. The Rangers under new bench boss David Quinn are playing well. They bring a 9-7-2 mark in with an identical 20 points, but in one more game played that puts them in third. They haven’t lost in regulation in the last seven games, going 6-0-1 over that stretch, including a comeback 2-1 home win over Vancouver on Monday. A game highlighted by goals from 19-year old Filip Chytil and 20-year old Brett Howden. The Isles are fresh off a 5-2 home win over Vancouver on Tuesday. Mathew Barzal had two assists and Cal Clutterbuck scored his first goal in 53 games. Brock Nelson notched his eighth.
All-time, the Rangers lead the series with a 125-113-19-9 record in 266 games. The fourth column indicates OT losses with the third column signifying ties between the two clubs under the old NHL format before ’05-06. If you added up the overtime and shootout losses, the Rangers would be 125-122-19. A better indication of how close the rivalry is.
For the Rangers, there is only one change to the lineup with Mats Zuccarello returning after missing the past three games due to a groin injury. He replaces a ineffective Ryan Spooner, who’s still stuck on two points. Zuccarello moves back onto the top line with Quinn opting to keep Chytil there with Mika Zibanejad following his successful game on Monday that resulted in his first goal along with the game’s first star. Vladislav Namestnikov slides down to the second line with Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. Lias Andersson centers the fourth line. Brendan Smith sits out a third consecutive game. Henrik Lundqvist gets the start.
For the Islanders, they’ll be missing a couple of key players, who give the Rangers fits. Casey Cizikas (lower body), Matt Martin (lower body) and Andrew Ladd (lower body) all were placed on the injured reserve. Stephen Gionta was recalled from Bridgeport along with former first round pick Michael Dal Colle (7-7-14 with Sound Tigers). Gionta will take Cizikas’ spot on the fourth line while Dal Colle will sit out. Thomas Greiss gets his second straight start.