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Rangers battle Isles aiming to sweep stay at Yankee Stadium
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers will try to go 2-0 in the Bronx when the NHL's "Stadium Series" continues with Wednesday's outdoor battle against the rival New York Islanders.
Just like they were in Sunday's blowout win over the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers are the designated visiting team for Wednesday's battle.
The Blueshirts slammed the Devils by a 7-3 score in Sunday's game at Yankee Stadium, scoring six unanswered goals after falling behind 3-1 in the first period. The Rangers set an NHL outdoor game record with seven total goals and also became the first team to win two outdoor games since the league began playing regular-season tilts among the elements at the 2003 Heritage Classic.
The Rangers, who also beat the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, can push their record in outdoor games to 3-0 with another win tonight. However, the Islanders have won two straight in this rivalry after losing the season-series opener against the Rangers on Oct. 29.
These Metropolitan Division rivals are set to engage in the fourth of six outdoor games on the NHL's 2013-14 schedule. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings got things started with the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium, won in a shootout 3-2 by the Leafs, and the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings met on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, hours before the Rangers and Devils tangled in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon.
The Ducks blanked the Kings 3-0 in a game that featured a temperature of 62 degrees at opening faceoff. Things were much cooler in New York for the clash between the Rangers and the Devils, but it was sun glare and not the brisk weather that led to the start of Sunday's game being delayed by an hour.
Obviously, the sun won't be an issue in tonight's battle under the lights but the cold weather remains. Snow fell for a while during Sunday's game and the white stuff could come into play this evening as well.
Mats Zuccarello scored twice for the Rangers during a second-period blitz that proved to be the downfall of the Devils. The Blueshirts scored four times in the second period and reeled off six unanswered goals in all to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 advantage.
"It's something you are really proud to be a part of," said Zuccarello.
Marc Staal, Derek Stepan and Dominic Moore all posted a goal and an assist, while Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin also scored for the Rangers, who had dropped lost two in a row heading into Sunday's game. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 19 shots in the win and the Rangers No. 1 netminder will get the start again
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was asked after Sunday's game if having already played at Yankee Stadium will give his team an advantage over the Islanders tonight. He doesn't believe it will.
"I think for our group it's going to be another good experience in an 82-game schedule," said Vigneault. "But I think if I'm from Long Island and I'm a player and coach and member there I'm going to feed off this first opportunity for them. I don't see an advantage for one team or the other."
The Isles are in need of a win on Wednesday, having lost three straight and four of their last six games after playing their best hockey of the season in late December and early January.
While Vigneault has confirmed Lundqvist will get the call tonight, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has yet to reveal his starting goaltender for this outdoor battle.
Kevin Poulin started Monday's 6-3 home loss to Boston and was yanked after yielding six goals on 26 shots in 48-plus minutes. Evgeni Nabokov saw his first action since being activated from injured reserve, stopping the only shot faced the rest of the way. In light of the most recent outing and the high-profile nature of tonight's game, the Russian veteran could get the call over the 23-year-old Poulin at Yankee Stadium.
Kyle Okposo scored once and posted a pair of helpers for the Islanders in their loss Monday against the Bruins. Okposo tied the game at 3-3 with 4:52 left in the second period, but Boston took the lead for good on a goal from Jarome Iginla in the final minute of the middle stanza and the Bruins added two more tallies in the third.
Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen also lit the lamp in defeat.
"We played well but didn't bury enough chances," Okposo said.
The Isles enter Wednesday's tilt seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division and nine points ahead of their rivals from Long Island. Under the NHL's recent realignment plan, the top three teams in each division get an automatic berth to the postseason.
Following tonight's battle in the Bronx, the NHL has two outdoor games left on its schedule this season. The Chicago Blackhawks are set to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1, while the following day will see the Vancouver Canucks invite the Ottawa Senators for a clash at BC Place.
01/29 10:32:10 ET