NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, December 20th
(All times Eastern)
NY Islanders (9-19-7) at NY Rangers (16-17-2), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of struggling Metropolitan Division clubs will
battle for a rare win on Friday, as the New York Rangers continue their
difficult homestand by hosting the rival New York Islanders at Madison Square
The Rangers had a road-heavy schedule in the early portion of 2013-14, so the
club's current nine-game homestand was supposed to be a chance to rack up some
points in front of the MSG faithful. Instead, the Blueshirts have gone 1-3-2
over the first seven games of the residency, dropping them to 6-9-2 on home
ice this season.
Alain Vigneault's club lost the first four games of the homestand before
finally breaking through with Sunday's 4-3 shootout win against Calgary.
However, the Rangers were back on the schneid their last time out, losing a
4-3 shootout decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite suffering another loss, the Rangers did well to even earn a point in
Wednesday's outing. Pittsburgh led 3-1 after scoring two quick goals early in
the third period, but New York would send the game to overtime thanks to goals
by Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard over the last seven-plus minutes of
regulation. Brassard's power-play tally tied the game at 3-3 with 1:46 left.
After a scoreless overtime period, one that saw the Rangers waste a power-play
opportunity, the Penguins were able to earn the win in the shootout, as
Brandon Sutter netted the lone goal of the decisive phase.
Carl Hagelin joined Zuccarello and Brassard as the goal-scorers for the
Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots in the tough-luck defeat.
Lundqvist was shaken up early in OT when Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz collided
with the netminder just outside his crease. Lundqvist was able to stay in the
game, but his team couldn't take advantage of the power play that came with
the goaltender interference.
"I don't think (Kunitz) meant to hit me," said the veteran Swedish backstop.
"At first after the hit it was hard to focus, then my neck began to get sore
but after a minute or so I knew I could keep playing."
Lundqvist could get an eighth straight start in net tonight and is 27-11-5
with a stellar 2.08 goals against average in 44 career games against the
The Isles, meanwhile, enter Friday's matchup in free-fall mode, having lost
three straight, 13 of 14 and 18 of their last 21 games. It's unlikely they'll
catch a break tonight, as the Rangers have won three in a row, five of six and
eight of the last 10 overall meetings in this series and the Islanders have
dropped 10 of 13 at MSG.
Although they've set the bar fairly low all season long, the Isles have played
better over the last week or so, going 1-1-2 in the last four trips to the
ice. The club is on a three-game losing streak at the moment, but the Isles
were at least able to get a point from each of their two most recent setbacks.
After losing 1-0 in overtime to Montreal on Saturday, the Isles dropped a 3-2
shootout decision against Tampa Bay to complete their two-game homestand.
The Isles should be kicking themselves for not getting a win in Tuesday's game
against the Lightning. They held a 2-0 lead after a goal with 9:39 left in the
third period, only to allow Valtteri Filppula to score twice in the last three
minutes of regulation. Filppula notched the equalizer with four ticks left in
Evgeni Nabokov finished with 34 saves for the Islanders, but faltered late as
his team fell to 1-9-4 over their last 14 outings. Filppula and Nikita
Kucherov both beat Nabokov in the shootout.
John Tavares scored the lone goal of the shootout for the Islanders, while
Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each potted regulation goals in the loss.
"When you play the right way for 57 minutes and you don't get the result, it's
frustrating, especially the way that happened tonight," said Okposo.
The Isles have lost 11 of their last 12 road games and are 4-13-0 as the guest
this season. They will close the month of December by playing four of six on
12/20 10:53:11 ET