When: Thursday, December 22, 7:00 p.m.
Opponent: vs. Islanders (11-14-6)
UPDATE: Erixon is indeed in for Woywitka. (5:54 p.m.)
UPDATE: Marty Biron will start in net for New York tonight. It also sounds like Jeff Woywitka won't be able to play, so Tim Erixon will likely skate for the second game in a row. (11:02 a.m.)
EARLIER: Barring something unforeseen, the Rangers will dress the
same six defenders on Thursday against the rival New York Islanders.
Stu Bickel is slated to make his second career start and Tim
Erixon is a good bet to play in his 11th game of the season despite possessing
lower-body injury” himself as Jeff Woywitka will again be a
The Blueshirts’ shorthanded defense managed to contain a New
Jersey offense that had scored 26 goals in its previous seven games en route to
a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Thursday’s tilt against the 29th-ranked Islanders’ attack should
represent something of an easier task for the undermanned defense.
The Isles have several players from their AHL affiliate, the
Bridgeport Sound Tigers, in the lineup right now and have struggled to do just
about anything right this season.
Their three-headed monster in goal had become less of a
storyline as Al Montoya had secured the starting job, but Montoya left
Tuesday’s game with a concussion. He
joins David Ullstrom, Steve Staios and Brian Rolston on the shelf with head
Evgeni Nabokov guided the Islanders to their second straight
win in relief and he’ll likely get the start on Thursday. But Nabokov has dealt with injury woes of his
own and hadn’t won a game since October 15th against the Blueshirts before
Tuesday’s victory over Winnipeg.
The banged up defense is the primary issue facing the
Rangers right now, but the team has managed to win its last two games despite its
defensemen dropping like flies.
Two losses in a row last week threatened to derail much of
New York’s early season success, but the Rangers stopped their slide in its
tracks when Brad Richards netted a miraculous game-winning goal against Phoenix
with .1 seconds left on Saturday.
The Blueshirts were outplayed by the Devils in their last
game, but a terrific game by Henrik Lundqvist and two goals from Marian Gaborik were enough to help New York earn another victory.
Thursday’s match represents the second of four consecutive
rivalry games. A preliminary date with
the Winter Classic opponent Flyers awaits on Friday and then the Blueshirts
will host the Islanders again on Monday.
Perhaps that’s a good thing for the team presently. New York has no trouble getting up for games
against its metro-area opponents and considering the shabby state of the
blueline, it’s good that coach John Tortorella can count on maximum effort from
the rest of his soldiers.
The Islanders are buried at the bottom of the Eastern
Conference standings yet again, but they usually bring their “A” game against
So weakened defense or not, this is sure to be a physical
affair. The Islanders are a team the
Rangers are expected to beat at this point, but much will depend on the defense
and whether the replacements can match their admiral performance of Tuesday
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