New York Rangers @ New York Islanders
Nassau Coliseum, 7 pm
Rangers Record: 8 - 3 - 1
Islanders Record: 1 - 4 - 5
The rivalry may not be what it used to on the ice, but don't tell that to the thousands of New York area fans who reslish it.
Tonight, the Islanders play host to the Rangers in their first meeting of the season.
Last season, the Rangers won the six game series 5 - 1 - 0.
However, there may be a new breath into the life of this series as the Islanders now sport a formidable young forward core led by 2009 first overall draft pick, John Tavares.
Tavares, in 10 games this season, has three goals and four assists.
The Islanders also rely heavily on former first round picks winger K
yle Okposo, 1 - 6 - 7, and center Josh Bailey, 1 - 2 - 3. All three are the future of the franchise.
On the backend, the Islanders continue to get consistent two-way play from Mark Streit, their 2009 All-Star. He and defenseman Andy Sutton lead their defenesmen in scoring with with a goal and three assists each, respectively.
Aside from the rookies, the Islanders also have some depth veterans that lead this young group. Former Ranger Doug Weight, Richard Park, and Brendan Witt provide depth and support as mainstays on the Islanders roster.
The Islanders have their share of wild cards as well, led by injury-plagued goaltender Rick DiPietro. DiPietro, who has been shunned for his 15-year deal, has struggled to stay in the lineup, battling a series of injuries and surgeries.
He has not suited up yet this season, and his time table for return seems to be around the holidays.
To address the goaltending issue, the Islanders sent some waves throughout the league by signing veterans Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. Curiously, both chose to sign knowing that when (if) DiPietro comes back, one will surely be waived or traded.
But they have both made the most of the opportunity, splitting time fairly evenly.
Another wild card is forward Robbie Schremp, who was claimed off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Once highly touted with an incredible skill set, Schremp has struggled to keep consistency.
While he has been provided an opportunity with the Islanders, he has only played in six games and has yet to score a goal.
In their last game, the Islanders fell 3 - 2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens.
On the Rangers front, a bit of disturbing news for fans hoping to see Marian Gaborik in his first contest of the rivalry.
Gaborik is currently listed as doubtful for tonight's game and forward P.A. Parenteau has been recalled as a possible replacement. He may be a game-time decision.
It appeared that Gaborik tweaked his knee in a collision with former Ranger Petr Prucha on Monday night. Both Head Coach John Tortorella and Gaborik have stated it isn't serious and is not related to prior injuries.
Monday may prove to be the game that righted the ship for the Rangers, defeating the Coyotes 5 - 2 at the Garden. It was a nearly complete game, aside from a five minute hiccup late in the second period.
Vinny Prospal continues to produce and Enver Lisin has worked his way to first line left wing. Both players will likely stay there tonight.
The Rangers defense group also rebounded on Monday, looking more comfortable and focused on the transition game.
While their own zone play is still shaky at times, they have been much more consistent at moving the puck through the neutral zone and contributing on the offense.
Rookie and early Calder Trophy consideration Mike DelZotto leads the team in defensive scoring averaging a point-per-game. His play has also brought the Rangers power play to 33.3%, good for third best in the NHL.
Top pairing Dan Girardi and Marc Staal seem to have settled a bit despite a shaky start. Girardi is second on the team in defensive scoring with four points.
Aside from the top line and defense chipping in, the Rangers have not seen much contribution from the depth of their forward roster.
Captain Chris Drury has become more defensively focused while wingers Chris Higgins and Ryan Callahan continue to be snake bitten.
Higgins had a much stronger game on Monday, playing harder on the boards and being more aggressive to the net.
Callahan continues to be a step behind, losing out on several opportunities because he is thinking before shooting. Both players could benefit from the game tonight as it expects to be fairly open.
Ales Kotalik has begun chipping in consistently, both on the power play and even strength. Kotalik had bounced around between the third and fourth line early in the season before forcing himself to be considered between the second and third lines.
The fourth line, in limited minutes, acquired Artem Anisimov last game and was able to chip in some offense while playing smart defensively.
A major questionmark for the Rangers has been the penalties, something that has been addressed, but still not fully enacted. New York continues to take untimely penalties, totalling 68 penalties on the season, good enough for fifth worst in the NHL.
Carolina leads the NHL with 78 penalties taken.
As for goaltending, the Rangers will likely go with Henrik Lundqvist, though it has not been official. Lundqvist was in a small fender-bender yesterday, but suffered no injuries.
Lundqvist looked solid on Monday night, turning aside 30 saves en route to the victory.
Blueshirt Bulletin will be covering the game live from Nassau Coliseum. Follow us here and on Twitter.
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