Not only are the New York Islanders and New York Rangers bitter rivals because of their close proximity to each other, but these teams are also constantly battling one another for Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division supremacy.
This storied rivalry adds another chapter Thursday night.
The Rangers (7-5-0) are ahead of the Islanders (4-7-1) in the standings, but as the lockout-shortened season has taught us already, no team is out of contention just yet.
Expect a war on the ice of Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
When: Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: MSGP (New York)
Live Stream: NHL GameCenter
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
Jesse Joensuu, LW, Out until mid March
Matt Carkner, D, IR
Radek Martinek, D, IR
Michael Sauer, D, Out indefinitely
Islanders Player to Watch: Michael Grabner, RW
The New York Islanders have a plethora of young stars on the roster, from center John Tavares to winger Matt Moulson, but the player that must step up the most is 25-year-old right wing Michael Grabner.
After scoring 34 goals in his first season in New York, Grabner dropped off to only 20 scored last season. If the Islanders want to sneak into the playoffs in 2013, the team needs the young forward to return to his elite form from two years ago.
Grabner had a nice start to the season, amassing seven points (five goals and two assists) through the first 12 games, but that isn’t enough. New York needs more scoring depth on its team and that starts with Grabner.
Rangers Player to Watch: Rick Nash, LW
Since coming over to the New York Rangers from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the pressure has been on for veteran left winger Rick Nash as he tries to adjust to his new surroundings while also trying to maintain a high offensive output.
As tough as the adjustment must be for the bona fide star, Nash leads the Rangers with 10 points (three goals and seven assists.)
New York continues to tinker with how the lines are arraigned—meaning Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards may not be on Nash’s line for very long—but as long as the veteran continues to log the kind of minutes he is putting in, the point totals will be respectable.
Prediction: Islanders 3, Rangers 2
While it is typically the Rangers that get the last laugh over the Islanders in this battle for New York, Thursday’s matchup will be different.
The Islanders have the better offense overall (seventh in the NHL as compared to the Rangers 15th overall) and the team is more efficient in all aspects of special teams.
The Rangers have better goaltending—Henrik Lundqvist is flat-out more talented than an aging Evgeni Nabokov—but the New Yorkers from the island are desperate to stop their five-game losing streak.
The Islanders steal a win.
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