Islanders Look To Keep Point Streak Alive As The Rival Rangers Come To Nassau

For the New York Islanders, home hasn't been very sweet, but somebody has been adding some sugar. The Isles, in the midst of a seven game home stand, have points in their last three games, all of which have been on home ice. Even better, they have fought through some adversity to earn these points.

Coming of Tuesday's win (and scoring explosion) against the Ottawa Senators, The Islanders sit two points out of a playoff spot as they near the midway point of the season. (Photo credit: flikr/Robert Kowal)

Who is currently sitting in that 8th spot in the conference?

The Rangers.

The Rangers roll into town on a streak of their own. They have won three straight games after their victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday. If the Rangers can pull of the road victory tonight, it could be the start of something big for the blueshirts. If they win, they can expand their lead for the 8th and final playoff spots. In addition, they have games in hand over the teams in the 9th through 13th spots.

The Rangers will be without star defenseman Marc Staal. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native took an errant puck to the face in Tuesday's contest at Madison Square Garden against the Flyers. It was a very scary looking injury as the puck appeared to hit him in the eye. It is early, but preliminary reports are that the doctors are optimistic of a full recovery. Hey, they may be rivals, but no one wants to see someone take an injury like that.

In an effort to pick up the slack left by Staal's injury, the Rangers have added veteran defenseman, and former Islander, Roman Hamrlik off of waivers from Washington. It isn't clear if Hamrlik will suit up for the Rangers tonight, but expect him to not be in the lineup.

The Islanders have points in three straight games with one OT loss, one shootout win and a regulation win on Tuesday. The Isles lost the first two games of this home stand, but are still in position to pull out a winning record in this seven game stretch at home.

The Isles are led, as always be superstar John Tavares who is among the league leaders in goals and points. Also among the league leaders is goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who is one win away from being tied for the National Hockey League lead. (Photo credit: flikr/clydeorama)

The Islanders are finding a rhythm, but they still need some scoring support from outside the top line. The scoring drop off after Tavares' line is pretty dramatic. Outside of Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Brad Boyes, New York's best scorers are around a half a point per game.

In addition, the Isles still need to improve their five on five play. They have improved slightly in this area, but are still tied for 25th with St. Louis at 0.80 goals for goals/against ratio.

The Islanders can best improve on this by beating teams to loose pucks and making smart outlet passes to get the puck out of their zone.

With a lot of matchups, it helps to look at home and road records to see if there is any advantage. A look shows the Isles to be 4-8-1 at home and the Rangers 2-4-1 on the road. Typically, one would think something needs to give.

Well, in this rivalry, you can toss records out the window. These two teams don't like each other and routinely play each other tough, especially in Nassau because the Rangers fans come out to Long Island to support their team.

The Rangers typically play former Islander Martin Biron in net and that will probably be the case tonight. Also likely to dress is towering forward Brian Boyle who likes to throw the mitts. On offense, the Rangers will rely heavily tonight on Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Marion Gaborik, and Rick Nash.

Expect the Islanders to counter with Nabokov in net. He has had the lion's share of Isles games this season and he will most likely get this one too before splitting a back to back on the weekend. The Isles will most likely insert tough guy Eric Boulton into tonight's lineup. If he plays, it will most likely be at David Ullstrom's expense.

This game is important to both teams, so expect a real good game, with a fight or two and plenty of scoring.

-Donovan Brooks

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