For the New York Rangers, tonight’s second meeting between the rival Islanders means more than just a regular hockey game.

New York Rangers (23-14-5, 51 points, second place in Metropolitan Division)
New York Islanders (23-15-5, 51 points, second place in Metropolitan Division)
Today, 6:00 PM on MSG, MSG+, TVA
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

By Patrick Comia

It should be another exciting chapter in the storied and heated rivalry that is the New York Rangers and Islanders.

Hopefully for the Blueshirts side, the ending to this game will be of the favorable variety.

In their previous visit to the Barclays Center it took a shootout to determine the victor. Kyle Okposo grabbed the extra point from Henrik Lundqvist, who was a wall that night making 36 saves in regulation and overtime.


But it was that Okposo guy that won it, and put a bad taste in the King’s and every Rangers fan’s mouth, beating the Swede over high on his glove side.

That was last month, and yet it still stings.

That’s the kind of atmosphere when these two teams get together. One side always remembers what the other side did, even if they dominate the previous game.

When the Rangers and Islanders get together, hockey takes on a different feeling. It’s just about bragging rights for the Rangers.

Both teams are tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division standings, have almost identical records, and struggling in their past 10 games. Rangers are 4-5-1, while the Islanders are 5-5-0. Yet, they are coming off victories in their previous games.

Something has to give. And for the Rangers, the hope is that the Islanders are the ones giving.

Battle of who is the better New York team

It’s always been that way. Even when both teams were not at their best, the battle of New York was still entertaining and heated.

It’s a civil war between neighbors, business partners, family members, even your local hot dog vendor is probably hip to the goings-on in the New York hockey world.

Both teams don’t want the other to score, and especially in their own building where the home team fans can get relentless once a goal is given up.

So far this season the Rangers and Islanders haven’t separated themselves from each other. That is what will make tonight have even more meaning. I

It’s an opportunity for the Blueshirts to build off their victory Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins. That play is what the fans are needing to see each game.

Especially to stay ahead of the Isles, who themselves are ruthless and aggressive with and without the puck looking for any mistakes, the Blueshirts will need another complete game effort.

The Rangers would be wise to say out of the penalty box and minimize their giveaways, as to not give the Isles and their fans ammunition and more of a reason to run the Blueshirts out of Brooklyn.

Do the Rangers have an answer to the John Tavares, Okposo, and Brock Nelson line

Most Rangers fans would say yes.

On offensive numbers alone, Mats Zuccarello best the Islanders captain by two points in entering tonight. The Norwegian has 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists).

What makes the answer mean even more is that Derick Brassard is contributing as well. The two have seem inseparable this season and have combined 63 points.

And it’s no surprise that both players lead the team or are at the top in goals and assists. And with both players having a combined +15 goal rating, it’s no wonder confidence is high in Rangerstown.

That’s higher than the combined first line of the Islanders, who are -16 in that department.

Now that J.T. Miller is seeing time in the Rangers top six and adding his 20 points on the season, the sky appears to be the limit. Miller looks to be tapping into his potential that warranted the Rangers making him a first round draft choice in 2011.

As they once said in the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, “Two men enter, one man leaves.”

For Rangers fans, that man is to be dressed in red, white, and blue.

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