The "New York" part of the title phrase is perhaps a bit liberal, but when the Rangers and Islanders get together, it is always a battle. When they take it outside tonight under the lights in Yankee Stadium, it doesn't figure to be any different.
While part one of the Stadium Series went about as well as it possibly could have for the Blueshirts–a 7-3 triumph over the Devils–this figures to be the more entertaining of the two tilts. Why? Because while the Devils play a controlled, disciplined style, Rangers-Islanders has historically more closely resembled chaos on ice. And everyone loves a little chaos.
But, not to be overshadowed by the rivalry aspect of the matchup, is the fact that it's an important hockey game for both clubs. The Rangers remain in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin. Five teams in the Met are within four points of the Blueshirts' 59, and three of those teams–Carolina, Washington, and Columbus–have a game in hand.
The Rangers need points, and having already dropped 2 of 3 to the last-place Islanders, a defeat tonight would ensure the Blueshirts are on the lean end of the season series with their crosstown rivals–something they would surely be kicking themselves for as the season winds down.
But that last-place team is far from the point of packing it in. Before a recent 0-2-1 stretch, the Islanders were playing inspired hockey, and had won 10 of 13. Jack Capuano's bunch never quits–they've erased a multitude of two-goal deficits this season, including one against the Rangers–but what they can't do is keep the puck out of their own net, resulting in a proclivity for blowing leads as well.
The Isles are just 7-4-4 when leading after two–a league worst .467 winning percentage. They're the only sub-.500 team in that situation–this in a league that features twin embarrassments Edmonton and Buffalo.
The Islanders figure to get a boost with the return of their de facto starter–Evgeni Nabokov, their only goalie with numbers even approaching respectability (.905 SV%, 2.85 GAA). But, sitting seven points back of a playoff spot, and having played one more game than any other team in the division, the Islanders find themselves bordering on must-win territory.
Which is where the Rangers come in. With the Stadium Series serving as the first of back-to-back meetings with the Isles, the Blueshirts have the opportunity to drive a figurative stake through the hearts of the Isles. Accomplish that, and their will be no doubting who's victorious in this most recent edition of the Battle of New York.
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- The Dreaded Letdown Game: New York Rangers’ Forecheck Snowed in by Isles, Fall 5-3
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